The Clinic Next Door

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According to the results of 2019’s Minnesota Student Survey, an effort that tracks healthy and unhealthy behaviors over time, 22.9% of Richfield High School juniors reported using e-cigarettes (or “vaping”) in the past 30 days. While coming in below the average of other Minnesota school districts, that’s still a shocking rise from 8.5% in 2016.

Luckily, there’s a place students can visit during the school day if they are struggling with e-cigarette addiction—or any other ailment. Down the hall from the RHS cafeteria, in a row of classrooms remodeled into a three-room clinic, students will find the Richfield Health Resource Center. Practitioners from Park Nicollet, Portico Insurance Navigation and Children’s Dental Services provide a variety of services such as immunization, STI screenings, mental health care appointments, sports physicals, substance abuse consultation and more. 

“Young people can practice coming to the doctor during the school day,” says Bridge McKye, the district’s Health Resource Coordinator. “Our mission is to support students to make healthy choices and connect them with resources.”

This walk-in clinic is not only available to high schoolers, but all children and youth who live in or go to school in Richfield from birth through high school graduation are eligible for this service. It’s inclusive, welcoming and entirely free—which is probably why it’s increasingly popular. In 2019 alone, there were about 850 visits. All of this good work is made possible by generous funding from the Park Nicollet Foundation. 

Much of the Health Resource Center’s work takes place outside of the three exam rooms. This includes outreach and education to students, support of districtwide health education initiatives and training for teachers and faculty. So now, when a student becomes concerned after hearing about vaping-related lung injuries on social media or in the hallway, there is a network of peers and adults ready to help change their life.