Sep. 18—Manchester schools are partnering with Amoskeag Health to operate health centers at two local elementary schools as part of a pilot program aimed at helping families better connect with health services during the school year.
School board members unanimously supported launching the pilot program this fall at Beech Street and Gossler Park elementary schools.
If successful, Manchester school officials hope to be able to offer the program district wide.
"What we're presenting is an opportunity to provide telehealth services for our students in the schools, so that their families don't have to come and take them from school, and then try to get a doctor's appointment, get that taken care of and then get them back to school somehow," said Sharon DeVincent, Chief Student Services & Wellness Officer for the Manchester School District. "It's really a great opportunity to provide families with a way to get their children to the doctor's if they need to be checked for the flu, or strep, or whatever they might need, based on the advice of the school nurse."
Instead of a student's parent or caregiver heading to school to pick a student up and take them to a physician's office if they aren't feeling well, students at Gossler and Beech will now have the option to be seen remotely by Amoskeag Health medical staff from the school nurse's office.
"A student will be able to go to the school nurse with whatever symptoms, and the school nurse will be able to do what they do so wonderfully with our kids," said DeVincent. "But if the school nurse feels they really need to see a doctor, and if the family really wishes — and a family can totally opt out — if the family wishes they can see a provider through telehealth versus taking them here. But they will still have that option."
"It feels like we're being proactive and innovative, and making the best use of the resources we have," said school board member Nicole Leapley.
Amoskeag Health received a $1 million grant from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to establish a school-based health center in New Hampshire, the first of its kind.
The grant is for one year, with an option to extend it for two more years," said Betsy Burtis, Amoskeag Health Chief Officer for Integrated Health Services. "We're taking it slow and hoping to ease our way into it and find out what really works, and then see if you are all interested in bringing it to other schools."
Supporters of the pilot program say it could help treat many illnesses like asthma, upper respiratory infections, strep throat, stomach aches, headaches, and COVID-19 by eliminating some of the barriers parents or caregivers may encounter trying to for a sick child.
School board member Leslie Want was particularly impressed the program will help identify cases of COVID-19 and strep.
"I feel like a lot of our kiddos fall into those two categories when they show up at the nurse's office," said Want. "They need help and getting that type of diagnosis immediately is a game changer for students and families."
"We all have talked about how important it is that our kids are in front of teachers and with their peers," said Mayor Joyce Craig. "If we can address the health issues right there and keep them in school it's a great thing."