$500,000 grant given for Pee Dee in-school clinic

LAKE CITY, SC (WMBF) - With a 90% poverty rate, some nurses in Lake City applied for a grant to help serve the health needs for students and teachers in the area. Now they have plans to build a new clinic on campus to treat injuries and health-related illnesses to keep students in school.

"When you walk in the door, you don't know what the day's gonna bring, you don't know if someone is gonna walk in here with a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm or a busted head," said Health Administrator Pam Coker.

Coker has been working for Florence School District Three for more than 10 years and says she's seen it all.

"It's not a band-aid station anymore, it might have been at one time but now you have to have nursing skills to be a school nurse," said Coker.

Inside Lake City High's 1,500 square foot clinic, sitting inside a mobile classroom, nurses treat many injuries and health-related illnesses most go to a hospital for.

"We have standing orders that we can give over the county medication to students with a parent's permission. It keeps them in school because a lot of times students say they have a headache and want to go home and we can treat them here and keep them from missing their classes," said Florence County School District Three District Nurse, Darlene Graham.

School officials say the clinic keeps a lot of students from missing school by offering treatment on the spot, that way they don't have to be sent home for the day.

But the current clinic is anything from perfect.

"This mobile's pretty old and it's coming apart in places and we've kinda outgrown it. The services we want to provide, we need more room," said Graham.

In 2010, the nurses partnered with District Administrators to apply for a federal grant under the Affordable Care Act.

"After having sent the application we got a few minutes later, a message saying that they received it and that was it," said Coker.

It would be longer than a year before they would hear good news; Approval for a $500,000 grant for improvements to the clinic.

"We were just shocked in disbelief and denial," said Graham.

"Miss Barbara Woodberry has helped us with the grant, getting all the information and knowledge we had in the right places for the grant, she was real instrumental in helping us get the grant. Jay Alexander is also real instrumental, he is our maintenance person and will help with our new building. It was just a collaborative effort," said Coker.

Now the nurses plan to have a new clinic built on the campus, double the size of the current clinic, with easy access for all.

They also plan to have a small gym with exercise machines for students who are overweight and incorporate it into a health class.

"They can come during a class period, work out and get nutritional counseling and hopefully see a change in their health behavior," said Coker.

Florence School District Three was the only school district in South Carolina to be offered the grant. 45 districts in South Carolina applied and 4 grants were given throughout the United States.

"We have the grant now and that's only the beginning... you know living in a poverty area, the kids here deserve it," said Coker.

The new 2,900 square foot facility is expected to be completed in June 2013.

Copyright 2012 WMBF News. All rights reserved.