Students at Norfolk's Booker T. Washington High School will be the first beneficiaries of a cutting-edge partnership to bring comprehensive medical services to a Student Care Center housed at the school. The Student Care Center will be funded by Optima Health, in partnership with Norfolk Public Schools, the City of Norfolk, United for Children, United Way of South Hampton Roads and Eastern Virginia Medical School.
United for Children, a public-private partnership aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty by driving educational success for children, saw an opportunity to bring medical services to Booker T. Washington High School, to support students in their efforts to graduate on time. But the partners needed a funder.
Optima Health recognized the need and trusted the partnership, providing a three-year grant for the center. The center will be the first of its kind in Hampton Roads, designed to offer the comprehensive services of a family physician’s office in a clinical space inside the school.
“This innovative and cutting-edge partnership is a powerful example of our community coming together for the benefit of children,” said Michael E. Thornton, Acting Superintendent of Schools. “Such alliances between schools and community partners are essential. Children whose needs are addressed, including access to quality medical care, can then focus on meeting and exceeding academic standards in school, graduating on time and preparing themselves for college or careers.”
“Sentara Healthcare and Optima Health seek to improve the healthcare status of the communities we serve and believe in seeking out non-traditional, transformational approaches to achieve that goal. This collective impact approach that aligns multiple agencies around a common goal is an example of that approach. We believe this project supports the Triple Aim goals: to improve the experience of care, improve the health of a population and decrease the costs. e are very excited to support this community project with the United Way organization and EVMS and the many other agencies that are part of this program,” said Darleen Mastin, Senior Vice President & COO of Optima Health.
Through the Student Care Center, Booker T. Washington High School students will have access to medical services that are beyond the scope of what school nurses can provide. Examples include general health exams, mental health services, substance abuse services, and referrals to specialists or other community services. Students were asked to give input on the most critical medical issues they faced to assist in the design of the center.
“A lot of school absenteeism is related to student health issues,” said Carol McCormack, President and CEO of the United Way of South Hampton Roads. “The center is designed to be a whole-child response, utilizing all the wonderful resources that Eastern Virginia Medical School brings to the community.”
The M. Foscue Brock Institute for Community and Global Health at EVMS and EVMS Family and Community Medicine are helping to champion the collaborative project within the medical community.
“The hope is that we can keep the students in school, address issues that affect their health and education, communicate with their primary-care physicians, and avoid unnecessary visits to emergency departments,” said Cynthia Romero, MD, Director of the M. Foscue Brock Institute at EVMS, who noted that the full range of services will be implemented in phases. “Ultimately, we hope that students receive necessary and preventive care, remain healthier and thus achieve higher graduation rates.”
The plan is to open the center in the coming months with a nurse practitioner or physician assistant serving student patients two half days per week. As demand for the center’s services increases, the center could expand to as many as five half days per week, said Christine Matson, MD, Chair of Family and Community Medicine at EVMS. An EVMS physician will oversee the center, reviewing records and providing consultation for the staff member on site.
When a nurse practitioner or physician assistant is hired, students, parents and staff will be surveyed again so that the center can target their most pressing needs. Protocols will be finalized to ensure that the Student Care Center is in compliance with all regulations and laws related to medical care, including patient privacy laws.
The idea for the Student Care Center began in 2013, with the launch of United for Children Norfolk, focused on neighborhoods and schools that send students to Booker T. Washington High School, where improving the graduation rate has been a priority.
The United for Children partnership has also created hands-on/minds-on summer programs, with earned enrichment in P.B. Young (2013-2015) and Tidewater Park (2014-15) elementary schools for 740 students, as well as extended-day learning during the school year at Tidewater Park. Solid gains in reading and math are fueling significant expansions for 2015:
· Ruffner Middle School is getting additional resources during the school day to help students prepare for SOLs.
· Jacox Elementary will launch a summer program for 450 students.
· In Suffolk, administrators were impressed by the successes in Norfolk, and asked United for Children to help with their 2015 summer school for 510 elementary students who have fallen behind.
· In Virginia Beach, the partnership acquired a grant from the McCormick Foundation to provide food for homeless children and their families.
In looking at how the United for Children partnership could have an impact for the 1,130 students, families and staff of Booker T. Washington High School, school administrators cited student absenteeism related to health issues as a huge concern for academic achievement and graduation rates.
“If there is any barrier to students being academically focused, we need to ask questions about that barrier and provide a means for them to get assistance, so that we can allow them to focus on the academic portion of their lives,” said Booker T. Washington Principal Adrian Day. “With this Student Care Center, our students will be able to say that they have a school that meets all of their needs. I think that is going to be very unique.”
In addition to the medical services, Booker T. Washington students will have access to a social worker from The Up Center through a grant from Anthem Health Insurance.
Eventually, EVMS hopes to provide opportunities for physicians in its family medicine residency to be part of the team at the Student Care Center.
“This is a way for us to demonstrate our commitment to our community,” EVMS’ Dr. Matson said. “It is an opportunity for our resident physicians to see through the students’ eyes those experiences that impair or support health, and to see how they can contribute beyond their office walls.”