Teen Health clinic image

Physician assistant Martha Norris checks a student's blood pressure at the Ball High teen health clinic.

Two free health clinics for Galveston County youth will likely close their doors if new sources of funding aren’t found after the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Pediatrics’ decision to cease providing in-kind funding for Teen Health Center clinics in Texas City and La Marque.

Teen Health Center Inc., a Galveston nonprofit that provides free physical and mental health care for people up to age 21 through school-located clinics, was informed in April of the medical branch’s decision to cut funding. Since then, the organization has sought other sources of funding but none has surfaced and losing funding is imminent by end of the year.

Teen Health Center Executive Director Angie Brown informed board and community members at a Texas City Independent School District meeting Tuesday night that one of the two mainland clinics — the one at La Marque High School — will close at the end of December, and a second clinic in Texas City, in a building provided to Teen Health Centers by the school district, faces closure in June 2019 if new funding is not found.

The value of the university’s Department of Pediatrics in-kind funding is $265,000 a year, about $130,000 per clinic. Teen Health Center runs four clinics at Galveston Independent School District schools. Their funding remains in place and they are not threatened with closing.

“Texas City ISD is very disappointed that the Teen Health Center has lost their funding and plans to shut the two clinics in our district,” an emailed district statement said today. “Having clinics on campus has been a huge asset to not only our students, but our teachers and staff who can get seen and return to school quickly. While our students could still utilize the free services at the Galveston locations, the majority of our families will not be able to transport them to the island.”

Teen Health Center clinics on Galveston Island receive funding from a major source that does not extend funding to the mainland, said Galveston attorney John Campbell, the nonprofit’s board of trustees president.

“Those are two of our busiest clinics,” Brown said. “We see about 3,000 visits out of a total of 7,000 visits per year at those two locations, and about 700 mental health visits.” The clinics dispense about 3,000 vaccinations to Texas City and La Marque children and expected to deliver 600 psychiatry sessions and 200 visits to an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder clinic in the coming year.

Teen Health Center mainland clinics receive support from other sources, including Galveston County Mainland United Way and Valero Energy Corp., but the bulk of funding covering the cost of staffing the two clinics came from the medical branch’s Department of Pediatrics.

“We looked at the numbers and it’s just too big a chunk of money for us to come up with,” Campbell said. “We have no endowment. Our services are free so we have no income. Ninety percent of every dollar of funding we take in goes directly to health care services.”

Brown said the fallout from the two clinics closing could mean a higher number of people seeking services in area emergency rooms and lower attendance at Texas City district schools due to state laws that require students be vaccinated before attending school and prompt free treatment for minor illnesses that, unchecked, keep students out of school.

“We offer staff at the schools on-site care for $25 as a courtesy, to make it easier for them to see a health care professional without having to take time off from work,” she said. “That impact will likely be felt, too.”

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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