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Michigan School District Uses Grants to Launch a Telehealth Program

Monroe Public Schools is using two $100,000 grants to launch a telehealth program in each of its 5 elementary schools. The district hopes to reduce absenteeism and improve overall student health and wellness.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- A southeast Michigan school district is using two $100,000 grants to launch a telehealth program that put telemedicine kiosks in each elementary school.

Monroe Public Schools used the first grant, coming last spring from the Community Foundation of Monroe County in partnership with ProMedica, to launch a telehealth pilot program in Arborwood Elementary School. The 12-school district then bought kiosks for the other four elementary schools, in Custer, Manor, Raisinville and Waterloo.

The most recent grant, from a $113 million fund set aside by the state to help school enhancement projects, will go toward operational costs, including supplies.

District Superintendent Julie Everly told The Monroe News the connected health program was established to combat increasing absenteeism, particularly in elementary schools, and improve students’ health and wellness – which, in turn, should lead to improved performance in school and better health outcomes over time.

“With this technology, the health liaison can review a child’s symptoms, collaborate with a school nurse and the child’s plan on file,” she told the local newspaper. “Then the remote team can determine if the child needs to be monitored outside of the school environment to ensure proper care or send them to class if they are deemed healthy.”

“The student doesn’t miss out on learning and the parent won’t miss out on work,” she added.

The program points to the promise and problems that plague school telehealth programs across the country: Officials see a telemedicine platform as an ideal way to reduce absenteeism (among students and staff), improve overall health and boost performance, but many are relying on grants and awards to get those programs up and running.

Recently, the US Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) announced that it was paying out $11 million in grant money to assist 120 school-based health centers around the country “to improve existing school-based health center facilities through minor alteration and renovation activities and/or to purchase equipment, including telehealth equipment.”

“School-based health centers play a critical role in preventing, screening, and treating some of the most common behavioral health issues known to affect student performance, overall health, and personal safety, including depression, anxiety, social conflict, adverse childhood experiences and attention disorders,” Jim Macrae, Associate Administrator of the HRSA's Bureau of Primary Health Care, said in a press release.

The challenge going forward lies in collecting enough data to prove a program’s value – in better school attendance, improved test scores or reduced healthcare costs – so that it can be included in future school budgets. And that’s not an easy sell, as recent teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Denver over budget issues can attest.

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