In Nevada, a state where the proportion of uninsured children exceeds the national average, medical services that are available for the needy sometimes go unused, especially in the summer.
Instead of treating asthma attacks or wrapping sprained ankles, Dr. Noah Kohn is using his summer office hours to catch up on paperwork for Clinics in Schools, which provides free medical services to indigent children.
"It's quite quiet around here, which is regrettable. We would love to see more activity," Kohn said Monday from his office in a rehabilitated storage room at Cunningham Elementary School, 4145 Jimmy Durante Blvd., at Flamingo Road.
After taking the first week of July off, Kohn saw his first patient of the month on Monday morning. Last year, Clinics in Schools treated 4 percent of its total patient load during July.
The program's other clinic is at Martinez Elementary School, 350 Judson Ave., near Carey Avenue and North Fifth Street in North Las Vegas.
The locations were chosen based on their high concentrations of homeless children, students eligible for the free and reduced lunch program and social service referrals.
Because Cunningham and Martinez are former year-round schools that have switched to nine-month schedules and are now closed for the summer, Kohn, a pediatrician, assumes that families don't know the clinics are still open.
That's regrettable since July is a good time to beat the back-to-school rush in August for getting required immunizations or the physicals needed by student athletes, Kohn said.
A physical is good for a year, so student athletes who get one in the summer would be able to use the results for basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring.
The Southern Nevada Heath District will be providing additional clinics in August for back-to-school immunizations. Like Clinics in Schools, the health district makes immunizations available to the uninsured or indigent.
The health district charges a $16 administrative fee for one shot or $25 for two or more immunizations, but the fee is waived if someone can't pay.
"No one is turned away," said Stephanie Bethel, a public information officer for the health district.
Clinics in Schools, a non-profit that relies on donations from the United Way and in-kind services from the Clark County School District and the community, does not charge for its services or turn people away, Kohn said. The program is intended to serve indigent children, from newborns to those up to 18 years of age.
The need for such services in Nevada is high. The state ranks near the bottom of the 50 states for its proportion of uninsured children. According to a 2009 census survey, 13 percent of Nevada children were uninsured compared to the national average of 10 percent.
A May 2011 survey by the Nevada Institute for Children's Research and Policy found that 16.6 percent of respondents lacked medical insurance for their kindergartners.
Because of the need, one might think Clinics in Schools should be busier, but Kohn said people living in poverty often lead complicated lives.
"A lot of them are working in more than one job to survive or they are working swing shift or graveyard," Kohn said.
The literacy level of their parents is pretty low, since 25 percent never started high school and another 30 percent never finished high school.
Preventative medicine ranks low on the priority list for such families. "If your kid is not sick, why would you go?" Kohn said of the attitude his patients have about doctors.
"They're only going to come if they absolutely have to," he said. "If you have a day off from work, do you want to truck them around to the doctor's office, or do you want to spend some decent quality time with the kids at the park?"
Erika Ley visited the clinic at Cunningham on Monday with her son, Erick Leon, 11, who needed to get a hepatitis A shot before starting seventh grade. Since they were there, Erick also got a wellness check.
"I think it's wonderful," the mother said. "A lot of people don't have insurance or other places to go. So they come here."
Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug @reviewjournal.com or 702-374-7917.