Opening a free health clinic during a pandemic would seem daunting to most, but the creators of The Bear Care Health and Wellness Clinic weren’t worried at all.

The Bear Care Health and Wellness Center, also known as the Bear Care Clinic, is a free school-based clinic that offers a wide variety of services to all students in the White Bear Lake Area School District. It is a supplement care clinic that works as a nonprofit entity and is located on the White Bear Lake High School – North Campus.

“Our mission is to provide accessible care to uninsured and underinsured children to improve health equity and health outcomes for our community,” said Jessica Miehe, clinic creator. Miehe is an assistant professor of nursing at St. Catherine University. 

All the services at the Bear Care Clinic are free for students from birth to age 21 to better support the community and its families.

The clinic was scheduled to open in September but in response to COVID-19, staff decided to open early six months early. Since opening in March, the clinic has served more than 50 students and continues to take on new patients.

“Right now, so many families are dealing with high insurance costs and loss of income due to the pandemic. We want to help keep kids in school and keep families at work,” Miehe said.

When two White Bear Lake seniors, Ava DelCastillo and Ly Fastner, heard about the clinic, they thought it was a great addition to the community and were inspired to create a mural for it.

“I asked them to think about the current climate of our culture right now and then come up with something that fit our mission,” Miehe said.

DelCastillo said, “I took this opportunity to paint the mural because White Bear Lake has taught me how to paint, so it would be a shame not to use my knowledge and skills to give back to the district. Also, I think that it’s important to create positive environments in our schools that make students feel comfortable. Hopefully, the mural will help achieve that even in a health office during a global pandemic.” 

Fastner added, “We are trying to promote good health, social justice and equality. We want to showcase examples of good ways to stay healthy and promote diversity, in a ‘love your neighbor’ type of way throughout the mural.” 

The mural, which should be finished around December, will be located in the main area of the clinic.

The Bear Care Clinic is a partnership between St. Catherine University and the school district. Both partners are committed to achieving inclusive excellence by engaging, including and valuing the diversity within their communities.

Judy Rognli, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, is the main provider at the clinic. Working alongside Rognli are nursing and social work students who come to learn while caring for the patients.

Some of the services the clinic provides include health assessments, sports physical exams, rapid strep throat testing, ear infections, pink eye, rapid mono testing, influenza testing, mental health support, urinary tract infection testing and flu shots.

Bear Care Clinic staff are looking forward to their new office after the reconstruction of North Campus is complete. The new office is included in last year’s $326 million building bond referendum. The measure passed; 57.4% voters supported the district’s Comprehensive Facilities Plan.

The clinic is currently open from 12-4 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The clinic is not able to test for the coronavirus at this time. If your child displays symptoms of COVID-19, you can call the clinic for assistance.

For more information, or to make an appointment, call 651-653-2923 or visit isd624.org/.

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