Commissioners updated on Top Dog Clinic

Wil Petty

March 22, 2014

The Ashe County Board of Commissioners were updated on Ashe County’s Top Dog Clinic at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, March 17.

Located at the Ashe County Middle School, the clinic provides accessible health service by a staff located on the campus, so parents do not have to take off work for their children to receive care.

Nancy Kautz, vice chair of the School Based Health Center (SBHC), made the presentation before the Board, requesting the Commissioners continue supporting the clinic by providing $40,000 each year by allocating that money in the county’s budget.

“Some of these impacts will be in the future,” Kautz said. “It’s important to promote a healthy lifestyle in the schools.”

As grants from the federal and state governments, as well as nonprofits, are coming to a close, the board is looking to the future in an effort to avoid a financial shortfall, she said.

“We have to be realistic and look at what we have on hand,” Kautz said.

During the presentation, Kautz also promoted the Top Dog Clinic’s fiscal responsibility as they deal with possibly harder times.

“We are very careful with our money, looking for those years where there might not be a grant or something to support the school based health center,” she said.

Over the last decade, the school-based health center has handled 4,205 individual student users with 20,903 cumulative visits.

The clinic serves 465 of Ashe County Middle School’s 489 students. The clinic has been in business since 1998 and provides the middle school students, medical, preventative, mental health and nutritional care.

“Not only do they take care of the children (when) they’re at school, the child gets a continuity of care,” Kautz said. “The care is very integrated.”

Recently, through an endowment, the Top Dog Clinic became the only school-based health center in North Carolina to have its own building, separate from the school.

For the 2013-14 fiscal year, funding for the clinic at the middle school totaled $180,249. Of that, $58,000 came from Medicaid, $43,840 was from state and federal sources, $40,000 was from Ashe County, $19,385 of the agency’s fund balance was appropriated, and $5,385 came from private insurance.

In addition, Kautz said she hopes the community participates in helping the SBHC receive more money through donations. This year, they are asking for $5,000 from the community.

Many agencies participate in making the Top Dog Clinic happen. Those include: the Appalachian District Health Department, Ashe County Middle School, Ashe County Board of Education, Ashe Memorial Hospital and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.

Also provided was data from a national survey that was conducted by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, a Michigan-based philantrophic organization which focuses on child welfare. According to the data presented, two-thirds of Americans believe its important for school-based health centers to have a stable funding source.

Kautz said the clinic is in year 2 of 3 from the state grant funding while it is in its third year of receiving support from the Duke Endowment.

“We anticipate if we don’t garner more money, we will have a shortfall of $62,000,” she said.

Kautz said the SBHC board is going to continue advocating for state and federal grant money to keep the center’s costs low. Also, grant applications are being submitted to help the clinic for the 2014-15 FY.

“We look to the future and we are looking at the (2015-16) school years, and we’re using quite a bit of our fund balance,” she said. “We are going to be short without additional support.”

In addition, the SBHC presented the Board a thank you card, for the county’s previous and continued support of the Top Dog Clinic.

Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe praised the hard work of the SBHC and its help for middle school students.

“I think they do a great job at the School Based Health Clinic,” she said. “I’ve heard about kids going (to the clinic) and being able to get help.”

In other action taken by the Board:

• Unanimously approved the creation of Lansing and Pond Mountain Fire Districts. An additional resolution was passed for the Creston, Todd and Warrensville fire districts.

• Commissioner William Sands provided the public an update on the county animal control’s phasing out of the gas chamber at the animal shelter. Sands said the $7,000 grant from the Humane Society was received in January, and the county is in process of phasing out the chamber.

• In attendance were Larry Rhodes, William Sands, Chair Gary Roark, Gerald Price and Vice Chair Judy Porter Poe.

Wil Petty can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @WilPetty.