On April 25, Lane Community College President Stephanie Bulger emailed LCC staff and faculty about proposed changes to the school’s health clinic. She starts off the email saying that the proposed changes to the clinic will “expand health services to more students.”
However, by the end of the email, it’s clear that the proposed change is to terminate the in-person clinic. Bulger explains that before the COVID-19 pandemic, LCC was made up of primarily in-person students, but since then about a third of students are now fully online. The clinic is funded by a $45 fee that in-person students are charged per term, and with the loss of in-person students, the clinic is in an annual deficit of approximately $260,000.
To supplement the loss of the in-person clinic, Bulger says the college will explore “a blended model of periodic public health presence on campus as well as telehealth options.”
The LCC Board of Education will make the decision about whether the in-person health clinic will stay a part of LCC’s resources, although it is unknown when exactly the decision will be made.
On May 3, the board had a meeting to discuss the proposal and hear public comments. Before the meeting, there was a rally put together by the Student Government Association and SGA president Nikhar Ramlakhan.
“I felt really, really heart-warmed by how many people showed up,” Ramlakhan says. “We had 10 students go up, including myself, in the public comments.”
He explains that public comment sections of board meetings are usually short, lasting no longer than 30 minutes. But on that Wednesday evening, 28 people signed up to testify on the topic of the clinic.
“This was the longest public comment session that’s ever occurred. It was person after person after person. People were clapping, which also does not happen during public comment,” Ramlakhan says.
Ramlakhan explains that he understands the logistics behind the proposal, but questions online students not being charged the $45 term fee.
“Even if you are an online student, it doesn’t limit you from getting access to health care. You can still come into the clinic and use its service, [and] our health clinic already provides telehealth,” he says.
Another issue is House Bill 2002, which is making its way through the state Legislature and has earmarked funds for LCC’s clinic. If the bill passes, $1.6 million would be distributed to Oregon’s seven public universities and LCC.
Adrienne Mitchell, a faculty member and president of the faculty union at LCC, says that because the clinic already provides reproductive health care, “the funding from HB2002 will allow the clinic to maintain and expand these services and that the services can be provided with existing staffing levels. For this reason, the funding would help defray some of the clinic costs while ensuring that students have access to care.”
The board has not decided yet but will discuss the possibilities again this upcoming Wednesday, May 17.
“I’m really appreciative of the fact that we had the opportunity to have a conversation about it and to hear from our stakeholders, particularly from the students,” board member Lisa Fragala says. “I was personally very impacted by what students shared in that meeting. I do think that approaching the meeting, I was concerned that telehealth could adequately meet the needs of students.”
Fragala also adds that listening to the students, she believed that the clinic has had “tremendous positive impacts,” and that it was made very clear that some of LCC’s “historically marginalized students find that service to be not only life-changing, but life-affirming.”
On May 17, the board has a budget meeting followed by a special meeting to discuss the health clinic, which will then be followed by a work session.
“I personally believe that access to health care is really critical for the students at the college and that they provided a lot of really good reasons why the board should agree to let the clinic continue as an in-person facility,” Fragala says.
You can find more information about the status of the LCC health clinic at the Lane Community College Education Association website, LCCEA.org, and the Lane Community College Employee Federation website, LCCEF.org.