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This article was published 3/10/2017 (1476 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In a Manitoba first, Sioux Valley High School celebrated the grand opening of a teen clinic on Monday.
While various high schools throughout the province offer clinics for youths, this was touted as the first Indigenous school to follow suit.
Nurse Michelle Simpson said that the effort was made possible by Sioux Valley Dakota Nation’s self-government status, which they’re also the first in the province to achieve.
It’s a "groundbreaking" achievement, principal Kevin Nabess told students during a school-wide celebration on Monday afternoon to launch the clinic.
While many deserve credit for making the clinic a reality, it was Simpson and fellow Sioux Valley Dakota Nation nurse Barbara Moose who planted the seed.
It has been almost two years in the making, with Simpson citing their main motivation as bringing their Indigenous community up to par with the province’s non-Indigenous population.
The idea wasn’t to offer the same health care, but the same level of health care.
Sioux Valley Health Centre director Margaret Roscelli said that special attention would be devoted to keeping the health services offered culturally relevant for the school’s Dakota students.
University of Manitoba Brandon satellite medical program head Dr. Charles Penner visits Sioux Valley Dakota Nation a couple times per month to run a diabetes and chronic disease clinic and helped set up the teen clinic.
While many factors tie into the Indigenous population’s disproportionally negative health outcome statistics, Penner said that evening the playing field in access to health care is one of the easier ones to tackle.
It’s important to bring health care to any high school, but it’s of particular relevance to Indigenous high schools given their statistically poor outcomes, he said, adding that access to both care and education is key.
Now, he said, "They can go right around the corner from their classroom and access health care. That’ll break down at least some of the barriers they have in accessing care."
The school’s junior chief, Corbin Wasicuna, said that he believes the clinic would help those who might otherwise decline to receive medical care a positive environment to do so.
"They’ll have that sense that they’re comfortable and can get the help they need," he said.
Staff remain uncertain as to how frequently the clinic would be open to students, but Roscelli said the goal would be for health care to be accessible as often as possible.
The clinic is located in the school’s counselling room, where a doctor’s office has been set up, complete with a bench, curtain and the usual array of medical instruments one would expect to find.
The clinic’s focus will be broad in scope, but Roscelli said health professionals would likely spend much of their time working on lessening the negative health outcomes that plague Indigenous populations, such as diabetes, as well as deal with typical young adult-specific concerns such as birth control.
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