Shenandoah Community Health Clinic to expand school counseling services

The Shenandoah Community Health Clinic is set to expand its counseling services to all Shenandoah County public schools after it received a $130,000 grant from the Virginia Health Care Foundation to hire additional behavioral health clinicians.

The health clinic has long planned to expand mental health services to all Shenandoah County schools after launching a pilot program in the school district’s Quicksburg campus last year. Pam Murphy, the executive director of the Shenandoah Community Health Clinic, said that the pilot program had a waiting list of 25 students last year, showing that it was needed throughout the county.

“The fact that we ran a pilot program last year and [the Virginia Health Care Foundation] could see how desperately it was needed” led to the clinic receiving a grant this year, Murphy said.

Murphy said that the health clinic hopes to have one full-time behavioral health clinician offer counseling services in Strasburg’s schools starting the week after Labor Day and two part-time clinicians to offer services in Woodstock starting at an undetermined time.

Those clinicians will likely travel between the schools to offer counseling services, Murphy said.

Murphy said that the clinic hopes to have two part-time clinicians in Woodstock and one full-time clinician in the other parts of the district because the Woodstock schools have the most students.

“Knowing that we really could’ve used a full-time person for 1,500 kids (in Quicksburg), we’re thinking we need more than a full-time to cover Woodstock,” Murphy said.

Murphy said that the grant is a three-year grant but that the amount of money the health clinic receives will drop by 25 percent each year.

“They do that, in part, to kind of force us to find a sustainable income,” Murphy said.

Eventually, Murphy said, she hopes to have the clinic be able to bill Medicaid for the counseling services. The clinic is currently working to be able to bill to Medicaid.

But even if the clinic is able to receive Medicaid reimbursements, it still takes in a significant number of uninsured patients, who the clinic loses money providing services to. Murphy said that around 35 percent of the students it treated in the Quicksburg site are uninsured.

She added that the number might change with the recent Medicaid expansion.

The expansion of Medicaid will not affect the number of children who are eligible to receive subsidized health insurance since the Children’s Health Insurance Program already covered children whose incomes fell between the old and new Medicaid eligibility standards. But Murphy said that the new law could cause newly insured parents to purchase insurance for their kids for the first time.

Still, Murphy said, “We know some of the services will not be billable to insurance, and that’s where the grants and donations can be real helpful.”