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City Schools Task Force Recommends Health Clinic

Times Staff Writer

A San Diego city schools task force overwhelmingly endorsed the creation of a school-based health clinic Thursday night but declined to suggest the types of services that should be provided at the facility.

The task force dodged the sensitive issue of whether the clinic should dispense contraceptives to city students--as originally proposed in March--concluding that the issue and decisions on all other types of services need further study during a proposed second phase of deliberations.

But “phase two” may never occur. If the district’s Board of Education votes against the establishment of a health clinic, the task force will not reconvene. The board is scheduled to hear the task force’s report July 1 and vote on it July 8.

Task force member Phil Hart called the decision “an endorsement in principle.”

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“I think it means the task force believes there is justification for continuing the study toward the possible establishment of a comprehensive school-based clinic,” he said. But he added that “there are all kinds of reasons why it may never come to pass,” including a lack of funding, the establishment of alternatives, or disagreement over location.

The vote for a health clinic, which would be established as a pilot project, was 23-3. The vote was taken by secret ballot of the task force’s members.

Panel members also filled out a lengthy questionnaire describing the kinds of services they believed should be included in the health center.

But while the ballots were being counted, the task force unanimously voted not to release the information contained in the questionnaire. Instead it will be held for use during the proposed study phase.

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Task force members said they believed that if the results were released, the news media would focus on their opinions on the contraception issue, a subject they repeatedly said has been over-emphasized during months of heated debate over the health clinic.

Just before adjourning, the panel rejected an attempt by Father Douglas Regin to amend its final report to exclude family planning measures from any health clinic established by the district. Regin’s motion, seconded by panel member Barbara Wiggins, died when Wiggins withdrew her second and no other member would support the measure.

Regin, a Catholic priest who throughout the evening led the opposition to a clinic, said he was “disappointed in that I wasn’t more persuasive, that there wasn’t a closer vote. I didn’t expect to win the vote, but I thought it would be a closer vote.”

Regin disclosed that Catholic Bishop of San Diego Leo T. Maher sent another letter to Supt. Thomas Payzant and the five school trustees Wednesday asking them to reject the clinic. In past months, Maher has denounced the clinic proposal in letters read at church services and endorsed a one-day boycott of city schools to protest the idea.

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The clinic has become the district’s most controversial issue of the 1985-86 school year, provoking hundreds of letters to the board and task force. The overwhelming majority of letter-writers are opposed to the idea.

The task force adopted a report condensing the findings of its three subcommittees. The report will tell Payzant and the school board that adolescent health care problems such as accidents, suicide, homicide, sexually transmitted disease, eating disorders and emotional illness are as prevalent or more common in San Diego than the rest of the nation.

The report speaks of a 1,272% increase in drug-related arrests among city school children in just over three years, high levels of teen births in the district, and the panel’s belief that many students recommended by school nurses for routine health care do not receive it.

“There is no question in my mind that many children are medically under-served,” Hart told the task force. “Over 50% of the kids referred for help don’t get it.”

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A subcommittee report calls for a survey of students across the district to determine where a clinic is needed and what kind of services it should offer.

The report concludes that most health clinics in other parts of the country are in economically depressed areas, are privately financed and staffed, and depend on parent involvement for success. Birth control and abortion referral services are the major concerns about such clinics, and the school district’s liability for actions taken at the clinic is another potential problem, the report said.

Overall, a clinic should be “dedicated to improving the quality of life of students whose health care needs are not being met,” the panel decided. “Programs and activities will focus on the delivery of comprehensive health care services which promote healthy life styles.”


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