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School-based health center serves district students

SALEM — Over the past year and a half, the district has worked on providing a program through Akron Children’s Hospital, known as a school-based health center. While the program is timely due to COVID-19, Superintendent Chris Neifer said they have been working toward this project for a while.

The school-based health center provides basic medical care for students at the school, including examinations and treatments in person or over virtual care technology by a nurse practitioner while at school. Michele Wilmoth, director of nursing and school health services at Akron Children’s Hospital, attended last school board meeting to discuss the resources that the school-based health center will provide.

“There’s a lot of health care that is delivered in school, and the average person doesn’t always know that,” Wilmoth said.

Serving about 40 school districts, the program’s main goal is to meet the child’s needs and get them back to the classroom. After looking at statistics over the past few years for the school clinic, including number of visits, reasons for visits and medications administered, Wilmoth said the clinic already provides a quality service. With the additions of school-based health centers, she is confident it would benefit the community even more.

“These statistics from the clinics serve as a precursor to where we can better improve outcomes and better interact with the students for their health,” Wilmoth said.

Wilmoth emphasized that a school-based health center is an additional service beyond the school nurse. Over the course of the pandemic, a lot of students haven’t gone to the doctor to get their well-care, immunizations or anything else they would normally get during the summer months. Wilmoth thinks the school-based health center can help with that problem.

“This is really a benefit for the district to have this service on site in a school environment where the families feel comfortable sending their children,” Wilmoth said. “This is a safe environment where they can access health care in a place that’s convenient and familiar to them.”

While a nurse practitioner will be in the district every six weeks, they will also provide virtual care with telehealth technology. Through telehealth, children will be in the nurse’s office and visit the nurse practitioner through the computer or iPad. Those appointments are held in a private room at the school.

The difference between telehealth and a FaceTime with your doctor is the technology that goes along with it. With the technology, the nurse practitioner can get close-ups of inside a child’s ear or throat and listen to their heart sound. The technology makes it a much more comprehensive than a regular FaceTime visit with a doctor.

“It’s the convenience of getting that care quickly and accessing it in a place that they are familiar so they can get their prescription and everything they need taken care of before they get picked up from school.”

The health centers are located in a private space at each of the school buildings and will offer check-ups, physicals, vision and hearing tests, referrals to specialty care and more.

While the school-based program will not replace a child’s primary care doctor, anyone can utilize it by signing a consent form and turning it into the school nurse. According to Neifer, the district will begin to utilize the health centers within the next few weeks.

slendak@mojonews.com

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