When Dayspring Health opened a health clinic at Williamsburg Independent School last fall, clinic staff expected to put some band aids on a few boo boos but not a lot else.
Physician Assistance Sarah McQueen, who is student health director at the school clinic, noted that longtime school nurse Rhonda Foley tried to warn clinic staff that they would be slammed with business.
Clinic staff soon found out how right Foley was. On day one, it was standing room only.
During the first school year, clinic staff had 6,731 nurse visits, 509 provider visits.
Out of 815 students, 499 students were seen at some point last school year, in addition to 82 out of 118 staff members.
“There is a huge need,” McQueen added.
McQueen noted that something she saw multiple times last year was a guardian, who had multiple students at the school, one of whom was sick.
The guardian was still able to get the well students to school on time, and then take the sick child back to the health clinic.
“I was able to see them, and treat them. The parents were then able to leave here with their school excuse and a treatment plan. Medication may have been electronically sent to a pharmacy. They got their homework assignments, and they went home. A lot of times the parent made it to work on time,” McQueen added. “What an asset it was for a lot of parents and guardians in the community.”
In addition to improving student and staff health, the clinic has had a measureable impact on student attendance, which improved by one full percentage point last school year.
Given that school funding is determined in part by average daily attendance, this was quite significant for the district and resulted in $25,000 in additional funding, noted Dr. Jeffrey Howard, Kentucky Commissioner of the Department for Public Health.
Kentucky Department of Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis noted that partnerships like this have the potential to be “game changers” for children.
“Kids can’t learn if they are not healthy,” Lewis noted. “This partnership is so critically important because it permits us to expand critical health services for kids … I can’t overstate how important this partnership is, and how successful it is going to continue to be. It should serve as a model for what partnerships across the commonwealth could and should look like as we insure that our kids are not only learning, but they are healthy and well prepared when they get to school.”
Dr. Geogy Thomas, Medical Director at Dayspring Health, added that starting this fall Dayspring is adding oral health screenings at the clinic as well. Dayspring also hopes to integrate behavioral health into the clinic too.
Cabinet for Health and Family Services and Kentucky Department of Education officials were on hand last Wednesday afternoon to tour the Williamsburg school clinic.
The visit featured a tour of the in-school Dayspring Health Clinic, which may benefit from a proposed amendment to the Medicaid state plan.
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is optimistic that phased-in implementation of expanded school health services will be possible during the 2019-2020 school year, through a Medicaid state amendment known as “Free Care.”
“If the Medicaid amendment is approved, I believe we will see similar partnerships and programs established in schools and districts throughout the state,” Lewis added.
Children with Medicaid coverage often do not receive needed healthcare services due to barriers, such as lack of transportation, parent work schedules, or finding a nearby provider who accepts Medicaid.
“The Medicaid state plan amendment would allow school districts to use federal funding to expand access to qualifying physical and mental health services for students enrolled in Medicaid,” explained CHFS Secretary Adam Meier.
The amendment would allow school districts to bill for a health service provided to students enrolled in Medicaid if a provider delivers that service free to all students.
“It is important to ensure our children are able to access necessary care while in school,” Howard said. “We are happy to have had the opportunity to tour the Dayspring Health Clinic and Williamsburg Independent School District and learn more about their school health model and the benefits for students and faculty.”
The Dayspring Health Clinic at WISD opened in August of 2018 and provides onsite acute and chronic care for both students and staff.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to better care for our community, right where they are and when they need the care the most,” Thomas added. “It is a chance to update their preventative care needs, such as vaccines, so they remain healthy.”
CHFS and KDE will continue to provide updates on the proposed Medicaid state plan amendment, which is pending before the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington, D.C.
In the meantime, superintendents are being advised of the program requirements and operational procedures to support improved healthcare access for students.