Hermiston students and school staff may have easier access to medical services next year.

The Hermiston School Board authorized district administrators to finalize contract agreements for a school wellness center at the meeting Monday.

Superintendent Fred Maiocco said the center at Hermiston High School will be staffed by a contracted medical group that will receive payment for the services from the patients, so the district will not have to pay for the medical services. He said the medical group will assume most of the business risk, but beginning next school year, if the wellness center operates at a loss of more than $10,000 per quarter, the district will be liable for up to $7,000 per quarter.

Maiocco said representatives from two groups, Family Health Associates and Providence Medical, toured the facility, but Family Health Associates submitted the only bid to provide services. He said the wellness center is scheduled to open Jan. 1 but will only operate half-time until the demand for services necessitates full-time staffing.

The center will provide students, staff and their dependents certain services, such as well visits, physicals, screenings, diagnosing and treating acute illnesses, vaccinations and referrals for more advanced care, Maiocco said. Services relating to contraceptives, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health will not be provided on school district property, he said.

Executive Director of Special Programs Jon Mishra said the district first had discussions about creating a wellness center in 2013. He said the district was methodical in developing the program and involved all of the stakeholders in the process.

“We’re going to be able to provide a service to our children,” he said, adding staff members would also benefit from reduced waiting times for simple ailments.

Board member Don Rankin, however, said the district would only further undermine parental authority by establishing the wellness center. He said the schools now feed many students and take care of them during the week.

“It seems like it keeps snowballing,” he said.

Rankin requested the item be removed from the consent agenda to be voted on separately.

Board member Maria Duron said parents would still be responsible for the students because they would have to pay for, or have insurance to cover, the cost of the medical services.

“I see this as a great benefit, not another thing we are taking on,” she said.

Rankin voted against authorizing the district to finalize the contracts, but the action item passed 6-1.

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