Community Care moving into area schools
Community Care of West Virginia has been working with families in the state for nearly 30 years, providing low-cost medical expertise and services. In November, Community Care started working in Pocahontas County schools, providing on-site medical care for students.
According to information from its School-Based Health Center report, “the West Virginia School-Based Health Assembly brings together individuals and organizations to promote comprehensive health services in schools, because a healthy child is a teachable child. To date, CCWV has opened 12 new School-Based Health Centers in Upshur, Harrison, Pocahontas and Braxton counties.”
“With parents permission, SBHCs provide basic quality services like immunizations, asthma and diabetes management, nutrition counseling, and sometimes oral and mental health services. Children receive these services regardless of their family's ability to pay.”
According to CCWV, “students perform better when they show up for class, healthy and ready to learn.
Studies by Johns Hopkins University show that SBHCs decrease absenteeism and tardiness, reduce behavior and discipline problems, and save money by reducing the number of emergency room visits.”
Patricia Collett, physician assistant and director of medical operations for CCWV, has been with the program for 12 years now. She said she sees patients, hires new medical staff, sets up school-based health clinics, and schedules visits for providers.
Collett said last year CCWV opened clinics in three Pocahontas County schools — Marlinton Elementary, Pocahontas County High School and Green Bank Elementary/Middle School.
“We're basically providing preventive-health services,” explained Collett. “Everything we would do at one of our medical clinics, we're doing in the schools. We're able to do acute care for treatment of things like sore throats and ear aches, we're able to do chronic care if we have children with diabetes or asthma, we do education with them, medication renewal, and we can do their immunizations and sports physicals — the whole gamut of family-practice services.”
Collett said medical care differs from county-to-county based on the needs of each community and what each Board of Education decides they want CCWV to provide. She said there is still a nurse in the schools where the clinics are set up.
“The school nurse has a completely different role than we do,” said Collett. “From a school-based perspective, the school nurse has their own job description, but there are things the school nurse can't do. The school nurse can't treat somebody for strep throat. They can call home and tell the parent 'your child has an ear ache, or they need to go to the doctor.' We're the provider, right on-site, that can take care of them.”
Collett said there's a big push federally to provide medical access in both urban and rural areas, and the CCWV program has been around to one degree or another since the early 1990s.
“Some parents might not have transportation, or the hours of a medical facility don't go along with their work schedules. So what we're doing is bringing the medical care to the children where they spend the majority of their day.”
Collett said Pocahontas County school superintendent C.C. Lester was instrumental in getting a school-based health center started in Richwood when he worked there, and he approached her about getting clinics set up in schools here in the county.
According to Collett, CCWV isn't here to replace a student's primary care physician. They're here to work hand-in-hand with them to get better overall medical care for the kids.
“These children already have primary-care providers in the area,” she said. “We are not here to take over that role. We work with their primary care provider, in collaboration with them.”
Collett said they recently hired two new dentists and they're looking at increasing access for dental care in the schools, too. When it comes to nutrition education, Collet said she hopes students will take what they learn back home to their parents.
“We can spread the wealth of education and teach them how to be healthy or how to eat better,” she said. “We know type-II diabetes is associated with obesity — it's our diet, the meals. That's one of our goals, educating students and getting them these services they need before they become very ill, young adults.”
Physician assistant Valarie Monico said CCWV offices can do anything a clinic can and they try to make things as easy as possible for the kids.
“In the elementary school, we see sick kids, we do their well-child check-ups, we do shots and immunizations if they need it. We charge their insurance, so it's just like an office visit. We don't collect money or anything from the students because we don't want them to have to worry about that. ”
Monico said the staff has been staying busy, and the schools have all been very accommodating.
“We're usually here half-days, but I've had to ask my boss to stay for the whole day so we can see more kids while we're here,” said Monico.
Marlinton Elementary School principal Ron Hall said the program has been working out great.
“It's been real good,” said Hall. “It takes a lot of the strain off us on guessing what's wrong with the kids. You know, I'm no doctor. If a kid comes in here saying they're having blurred vision, well I don't know what to do. That's not something I can take a temperature for.”
Hall said having a clinic in the school doesn't disrupt a student's daily schedule.
“You'd never know it's here,” said Hall. “They take care of everything — contacting the parents, all that. It's a pretty good set-up.”