Essentia Health and Superior High School are teaming up to provide on-site physical therapy services in the school’s athletic training space.

The clinic is expected to open in early September, about the time school starts. It will be similar to Essentia Health clinics housed at Northwestern High School in Maple and Esko High School in Esko, Minnesota, but the Superior High School site will strictly serve students and staff.

All of the current athletic training services at Superior High School will continue, with the addition of two physical therapists who will be on site at different times. The expansion is aimed at keeping kids on campus.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to kind of meet students and staff where they are and make it convenient for them to get the care that they need. I think the hardest part about getting the care that you need is being able to schedule it into your day,” said Katherine Brunette, manager of rehabilitation services at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior.

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The idea of an embedded clinic has been discussed for years, Superior High School Principal Rick Flaherty said.

“Although a lot of the kids that will probably take advantage of it are the kids participating in sports, it will be open to other students, staff, and we’re working to open it to the community,” he said.

Essentia Health's physical therapy clinics in Maple and Esko, housed in school fitness centers, are open to community members, but those are smaller schools.

“Superior High School is such a big high school in itself, with how many people there are every day on campus, that it will really just serve the campus,” Brunette said.

Physical therapy services will be available to all students and staff, whether or not they are Essentia Health patients, she said. No physician’s referral will be required. Services will be billed to the patient or their insurance, as with other Essentia Health clinics. Rental of the space is part of an athletic agreement between Essentia Health and the Superior School District, Brunette said.

Reports from previous years showed between 50 and 75 students left Superior High School each week for medical appointments, Brunette said. Although they can still choose to schedule off-site visits, the clinic provides a closer option for those who need physical therapy.

“One of the big advantages will be not having to leave, missing classes and such, and just being able to do some of those things real quickly. That’s a big benefit to the school,” Flaherty said. “But also, it’s going to give us a chance to start to establish a relationship and open up the doors, I think, to do something more comprehensive.”

Superior School Board members talked about the possibility of opening the clinic up to the community and offering a wider range of services at its Monday, Aug. 2, committee of the whole meeting.

The Superior High School athletic training area can easily double as physical therapy space, Brunette said, but it would take more work and different facilities to provide other services.

“I think the future is kind of having health care embedded within schools, but it’ll be interesting to kind of see where it goes,” Brunette said.

Those who are interested in learning more can call the Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Hospital-Superior rehabilitation department, 715-817-7200.