Center provides affordable health services

Affordable health care can be difficult for some students to attain, but there is a potential fix here on campus.

There is an $11 fee that Pierce College students pay each semester. This fee, which is the same at all of the nine colleges in the district, grants access to the Student Health Center.

Beth Benne, director of the Student Health Center, promotes the center’s services to anyone that will listen.

“I look at the health fee as an access fee, an access fee to health professionals,” Benne said.

A low-cost flu vaccination is one service the fee provides students. During a meeting on Sept. 23, Benne informed the Academic Senate of the arrival of the flu vaccines and asked the members to encourage their students to contact the Health Center for the $10 shot.

“Everyone older than 6 months is recommended for flu vaccination with rare exception,” the Centers for Disease Control’s website states.

Other no-cost and low-cost services utilized more than 5,000 times last year include mental health counseling services, over-the-counter medications, physical exams, condoms, STD testing and pregnancy testing, according to Benne.

The fact that so many of the services are free is something Amy Stone, a 25-year-old Pierce student in her third year studying animal science, really liked.

“I thought this was pretty awesome, the fact that they don’t charge you for the interview,” said Stone, referring to her visit.

The low-cost services were also something she took advantage of.

“I hadn’t had a tetanus shot in, like, six years, and I went to urgent care.  They wanted me to pay $200, so when I came [to the Health Center] they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s $35.’ I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m doing this right now. That is ridiculously cheap,’” Stone said.

However, some students on campus do not know about the center and most have never used it.  According to Benne, approximately 5 to 6 percent of students on campus use the services the center had to offer last year.

Ben Salonga, a 17-year-old accounting student in his first semester at Pierce, is one of those students.

“I actually don’t know about [the Health Center]. I just know that it’s $11 a semester,” Salonga said.

Other services that the Health Center includes are a medical clinic, a mental health clinic, a nutrition clinic and educational outreach.

“We have made a huge push this summer through our health educational component. We have six classes scheduled next week. We’re going out and trying to educate our students of all age groups about the Affordable Care Act,” Benne said.

Whether it’s at a free clinic or an urgent care facility, Benne thinks the wide range of services for the cost the Health Center has to offer are unmatched.

“Nowhere in my 33 years of health care have I ever come across something so fundamentally professional and inexpensive at the same time. This is my dream job,” Benne said.