Cooper said he’s in the “beginning stages” of working with the SWOS health clinic to establish a satellite extension in Dolores for students and their families. He said he also hopes to hire a full-time counselor. School board members agreed a clinic and counselor should be a top priority.
“With the one doctor’s office closing over here ... in town we don’t have any others, other than Denise Brisbin, our one school nurse,” Cooper said. “We would, ideally, have two locations for health-care services on campus.”
The SWOS clinic in Cortez offers physical examinations, immunizations, substance abuse education and other health services to anyone in the county under 21, for reduced fees. It receives funding from the state. Right now it has only one location, but Cooper said SWOS staff approached him last summer about a Dolores location.
The Dolores district and clinic have applied for a planning grant from the state, which is the first step in a process Cooper said will likely take several years. If the first grant goes through, the district will apply for bigger one next winter, which would pay for the clinic’s construction. With budget cuts on the horizon for the district, most of that construction will have to be funded by grants.
Representatives from the parent-teacher association and other groups in the school district have written letters in support of the grant, and in Thursday’s meeting the board voted to write a support letter of its own.
Although the grant process will take time, Cooper said the SWOS clinic can help Dolores students immediately by offering annual “child welfare checks,” which involve both physical and mental health. Cooper has asked clinic staff to visit Dolores this year to help nurse Brisbin perform those checkups on student athletes. The clinic’s behavioral specialist has also expressed interest in working part-time in Dolores.
Fifth-grade teacher Josie Snow, who reported on the latest research by the “Wildly Important Student-Centered Advisory Team” on student wellness, said her group is excited to work with the SWOS clinic, especially because of their mental health services.
“It seems like as a group, we’ve been focused on wellness a lot, and this seemed like a good fit,” she said.
School board members agreed to discuss the partnership with SWOS during their budget meeting on Jan. 26.
The board’s discussion comes in the context of a recent crisis in mental and physical health in Dolores.
In December, longtime Dolores doctor Allan Scott Burnside retired amid a review that alleged improper prescription of painkillers. Burnside denied all allegations, and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies stated that there was been no final action in the case.
In November, the school district flooded the campus with up to 42 counselors and mental health specialists to help students, teachers and parents in the wake of a student’s suicide, which occurred amid allegations that the girl had been bullied.
And in August, the death of a former student triggered awareness of the problems of drug addiction and the need to address it.