MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Tacoma, Wash. -- Students in Lacey's River Ridge High School can now access healthcare on campus thanks to the opening of a new school-based health clinic.

North Thurston Public Schools officials and the mayor of the City of Lacey joined Madigan Army Medical Center leadership on Oct. 16 to celebrate the clinic's opening, which allows River Ridge students who are also military beneficiaries, about 40 percent of the school's population, to take advantage of the in-house primary care clinic staffed by a nurse practitioner and a nurse who specialize in taking care of teenagers.

"By providing onsite health care services to the students, we are able to reduce the number of hours and days that students miss school. We know that attendance is an important indicator to student success, therefore everything we do to ensure our students are in school on time, all day, every day is important," said Dr. Debra Clemens, superintendent for North Thurston Public Schools.

Students can be seen at the clinic for acute, minor and chronic illnesses, sports physicals, immunizations, and to manage long-term medications such as those for asthma and allergies. In addition, they can access counseling for behavioral health concerns, as well as laboratory and basic pharmacy services.

Establishing River Ridge as the tenth local school with a Madigan school-based health clinic is just a part of the support that military children deserve given the sacrifices they are asked to make, according to Madigan Commander Col. Thomas Bundt.

"They're the courageous elements in our parties. They're not just on orders, but they carry the burden more than anyone can ever know or contemplate," said Bundt. "It's a tough thing to do, and it's a challenging thing to do, so what do we do? We come up with ways, and means and resources to support them."

The support for the military children also helps the communities they reside in and their parents as well. In fact, Bundt said a survey of parents found overwhelming backing for the school clinics. Not only do the clinics allow military parents to miss less work to manage their children's appointments, but they can also allow their children to receive faster medical care if they need immediate primary care support.

"A school-based clinic can give military parents that peace of mind that their teen can get seen if needed, even if the parent is unreachable at the moment due to current mission requirements," said Mel Hartley, a member of the North Thurston Public Schools Board of Directors and a Madigan staff member.

School-based health clinics for military-connected students are also in place in the Bethel, Clover Park, Steilacoom and Puyallup school districts.

This community-based approach is also now being followed by Darnall Army Medical Center in Texas to support military children around Fort Hood.

"If we can prove success in these programs, this can carry on throughout many other footprints," said Bundt.