Health was the theme of the Kerhaw County Board of School Trustees meeting Tuesday night.
The board heard two presentations relating to student health -- one by LiveWell Kershaw and the other by representatives with Telehealth.
Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County Executive Director Susan Witkowski and Iron Sharpens Iron President Holly Hayes presented an evaluation of LiveWell Kershaw’s School-Based Health Center (SBHC). Witkowski and Hayes told board members the goal of LiveWell’s model is to encourage a culture of health, which it hopes will eventually lead to Kershaw County becoming the healthiest county in South Carolina. This includes its SBHC program at North Central high and middle schools.
The presentation also touched on mental health counseling needs in the district and the possibility of expanding the SBHC program county-wide. Witkowski said North Central middle and high school students had access to a “minute” clinic and life coaches (mental health counselors) for the entire 2017-18 school year.
“Administration, staff, students and parents who were interviewed and surveyed were greatly appreciative of these services,” she said.
Hayes noted 98 percent of high school students and 80 percent of middle school students were registered for the SBHC.
“That is huge,” Hayes said. “This service is for all students.”
The minute clinic, staffed by a nurse practitioner and a medical assistant, conducted 222 sick visits and 106 sports physicals during the 2017-18 school year. In addition, 23 students received mental health counseling.
“(More than) 67 percent of the students who were seen by a nurse practitioner or counselor were sent right back to class,” Hayes said.
She said the in-school health clinic allows students to stay in school and get treated for minor illnesses.
“And parents don’t have to miss work to take their child to the doctor,” Hayes added. “Parents and grandparents greatly appreciate this. Some said they were actually able to keep their jobs because of LiveWell Kershaw…. By May 2019, the SBHC will have significantly decreased absenteeism among middle and high school students.”
Hayes said the SBHC is “a phenomenal model. Students rated it 100 percent as being satisfied with the services and 98 percent would recommend it to friend…. It’s all focused on what can we do to help this child graduate and it’s a model we should consider for other schools.”
The LiveWell Kershaw initiative was funded through a contract provided by the S.C. Department of Health and Human Services from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. Witowski said additional funding was secured to expand mental health services at Lugoff-Elgin and Camden high schools this school year, and she hopes to be able to add a nurse practitioner at those schools in the near future.
“It’s been an amazing journey with you all so far,” she told board members.
As part of his report, Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Shane Robbins introduced Tiletha Lane, affiliations coordinator with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), and MUSC’s Elana Wells, who then shared a presentation on a telehealth service being offered to school districts through the state. S.C. Telehealth Alliance (SCTA), a statewide collaboration of many organizations joining forces to expand telehealth services across the state. The SCTA provides guidance, assists with strategic development, and advises on technology and standards to develop an open-access network.
“I’m excited about the possibility of pairing telehealth with our in-school clinics,” Robbins said. “I think it’s something that may be valuable to us -- being a large county with some very rural areas -- we can get all kids the medical attention they need.”
Lane said telehealth uses digital and communication technologies to remotely access healthcare services within the district so students do not miss school and parents don’t need to miss work.
If parents sign their children up for the service, students can be evaluated in the school nurse’s office using telecommunication technologies. If any prescriptions are needed, a provider will call them in to a local pharmacy, Wells said.
“The telehealth provider also always follows up with the child’s primary health provider,” she added.
The presentation showed a program launched in the Darlington County School District where parents can enroll their children in its own SBHC program so they can be remotely examined, diagnosed and treated by a nurse practitioner or doctor from MUSC.
“We’d like to propose you start a pilot program here in Kershaw County,” Lane said.
Wells said the goals of the program are to cut down on unnecessary emergency room visits, reduce missed class time for students and work time for parents, and improve overall access to medical care. She said telehealth services have been expanding over the past four years and are being utilized in 80 schools around the state.
“I think this demonstrates the strong collaborations between hospitals, academic medical centers, local providers and our school districts,” Wells said.
Medicaid covers visits or families can use private insurance.
Lane said telehealth services can complement LiveWell Kershaw’s SBHCs.
“We’ve already had several meetings to see how we can help each other,” she said.
Earlier during Tuesday’s meeting, trustees considered second and final approval of updates to sections A and B of the board’s policy manual. Requiring two readings of policy updates is a new procedure for the board this year.
KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd said that, in September 2018, the board asked the S.C. School Board Association (SCSBA) to assist with a review and update of its board policy manual. Byrd led the board through a discussion of the proposed policy changes for Section A (Foundations and Basic Commitments) and Section B (Board Governance and Operations) that passed first reading during the board’s Feb. 5 meeting.
At that meeting, SCSBA General Counsel and Director of Policy and Legal Services Dr. Tiffany Richardson presented the updated sections for review.
One of them is a tobacco-free policy included as a recommendation to be added in Section A with the goal of providing a “100 percent tobacco-free, smoke-free environment for all students, staff, other workers and visitors” in all district facilities, vehicles and on school and district-owned grounds. The tobacco-free policy would also apply to all school-sponsored or school-related events on or off school grounds. Some other districts in the state already have a tobacco-free policy, but this in new for Kershaw County, Byrd said. Board members discussed the need for communication and signage in regards to this particular policy change.
“We may be a little ahead of the game on this, but the state may well soon mandate this as policy,” Robbins said. “It’s a nationwide cultural shift towards wellness. Some of these policies were dated 1997, which might not seem that long ago to us, but it’s been 22 years. Setting policy gives us guidelines and is some of the most important work we do.”
Board members voted unanimously on second and final reading to adopt the updated policies.
In other business, Karen Jackson, chairperson of the Baron DeKalb Elementary School Improvement Council, asked board members during public comment to use any funds left over from the recent construction of new schools to make needed renovations at the elementary school.
“This school is important to the community and serves a large area,” Jackson said. “It serves more than 200 students and we’ve been waiting patiently for years for the appropriate amount of attention to be paid to Baron DeKalb Elementary School.”