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Clinic Possible At Atrisco Heritage

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Medically under-served students and their families in a southwest Albuquerque area are a step closer to having better access to health care.

Albuquerque Public Schools’ Capital Outlay Committee on Thursday recommended approval of a 10-year lease with the University of New Mexico that will allow UNM to build and operate a family and community health clinic at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School.

If approved by the full school board, the lease will still need approval by the State Board of Finance.

Karen Sanchez-Griego, principal of Atrisco Heritage, said in a letter to the APS committee that the health clinic represents a partnership that is “about the health and well-being of not only our students, but our community as a whole.”

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“The needs of our students and the surrounding community are great,” Sanchez-Griego wrote, citing a school population that consists of 91 percent Latino students, with 89 percent of these students from families with average incomes of between $12,000 and $15,000 a year.

“We know that many of our students do not have access to health care which in turn makes these students vulnerable to unhealthy lives,” she wrote.

Healthier students lead to less absenteeism, better academic performance and less truancy, at least on a national scale, Mary Kay Anderson of the UNM College of Nursing said in an interview, after Thursday’s committee meeting.

She added that national data also show that students in poorer communities often don’t get the health services they need.

“One of our challenges will be to look at the data locally to see if that is true,” she said, adding that the clinic plans to collect local data, in response to a request from the capital outlay committee.

When Atrisco Heritage, the newest APS high school, opened in 2008, it included a 4,000-square-foot area designed as a community health clinic.

It will include eight exam rooms, a medical room, clean and soiled utility rooms, a station for nurses, a shared conference space and other necessary support areas.

UNM Hospital in partnership with the College of Nursing and the School of Medicine will staff and operate the clinic.

The plan is to have it open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., “which would allow times for not only our students to have access, but all members of this surrounding community,” Sanchez-Griego wrote.

APS will provide the space and cleaning services for the clinic, which will be named the UNMH Atrisco Heritage Center for Family & Community Health.

The nearly $792,000 project is being funded with a $500,000 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration, and the remainder from UNM Hospital. Construction is expected to begin in June 2013, with occupancy by the beginning of the school year next year.

The school is located at Dennis Chavez and 118th Street in southwest Albuquerque.

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