NEW ALBANY — New Albany-Floyd County is moving forward with plans for a primary care center at New Albany High School.

The NAFC school board voted unanimously Monday to approve a contract with LifeSpring Health Systems for the center.

The center will offer comprehensive primary care and acute care services from a nurse practitioner inside the school by the start of the school year.

Beth Keeney, senior vice president of community health initiatives at LifeSpring, said she is “excited for the opportunity to ensure students at NAFC have access to health care when they need it.”

Placing the center inside the high school during the school day helps eliminate many traditional barriers to care, she said.

“It’s for kids who might need a physical for sports, immunizations or if they’re sick — it’s a place they can come in the actual high school,” Keeney said.

The health center will offer affordable care and help students who are not connected to other health care providers or face barriers to access, according to Keeney.

This will be LifeSpring’s first school-based clinic. The organization is also preparing to open a clinic for Salem Community Schools.

NAFC Associate Superintendent Louis Jensen noted that New Albany High School has more than 10,000 visits to its student health clinic each year.

Many students at the school do not carry medical insurance or have a primary care physician, and access to health care can be difficult if they have to go after school, Jensen said.

“It’s an opportunity for kids who don’t have the opportunity after school for a variety of reasons,” he said. “You name it, there’s probably a reason.”

The center is open only to students at New Albany High School. It will offer a sliding fee scale assessed by household income.

“No one is ever turned away if they don’t have the ability to pay or if they don’t have insurance — we serve everyone,” Keeney said.

LifeSpring already offers mental health services in NAFC.

“[The health center] is just the culmination of a growing partnership with New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated Schools, and I think it shows incredible leadership on their behalf,” Keeney said.

Jensen said that if the health center at New Albany High School is successful, the district may consider a similar program at other secondary schools.

LifeSpring aims to get the word out about the student health center, so as parents sign up their child for school, they can also consent to their child receiving treatment from the student health center, Keeney said .

The center is not meant to replace students’ current primary care providers, she said.

“By all means, we want people to have a good health care home and good health care environment, and this is just another access point to health care for families and especially for students,” Keeney said.

“I think it’s going to be a great way for students to access care who may not have been able to do that,” she said.

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