School Health Program
The start of the new school year in September 2017 also signaled a new year for the MetroHealth School Health Program (SHP).
The program is in its fourth year of bringing primary care to children in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District who otherwise might not have easy access to health services. In partnership with the district, MetroHealth medical professionals travel throughout the city in a mobile unit equipped with two exam rooms to care for children during school hours. The program also serves one school via an in-school clinic.
Mound STEM School near MetroHealth Broadway Health Center and Lincoln-West High School were the first two SHP schools when the program launched in November 2013. Today, the mobile unit travels to three high schools and 10 elementary schools, serving both the near East and near West sides.
Services offered include well-child visits; school and sports physical exams; immunizations; urgent care; teen health visits; behavioral health screenings; basic lab testing; and care for common health concerns. Families have no out-of-pocket costs for any of the services. If families need insurance, the program can assist with the enrollment process.
As the number of schools has grown, so has the number of students receiving care. In 2014-2015, the program’s first full year, parents and guardians signed up more than 1,000 students – nearly 20 percent of those eligible for the program. MetroHealth staff completed nearly 700 visits. Since then, the program has enrolled more than 1,800 students, 49 percent of those eligible, and is on target to reach 2,300 visits for the 2017-2018 school year.
In addition to meeting important health care needs, the School Health Program collaborates closely with internal MetroHealth partners, including the Aamoth Family Pediatric Wellness Center, Trauma Department, and Arts in Medicine, to provide wellness programs for students, staff and families.
The School Health Program has received in-kind support and generous gifts from individuals, foundations and corporations to help cover initial operating expenses, but additional funding is needed.
In order for the program to expand to effectively serve more children, it needs to add more staff, says SHP Director Katie Davis.
“The School Health Program is very different from any other MetroHealth site,” she says. “We need a lot more boots on the ground.”
Additional care coordinators, who are responsible for keeping lines of communication open between families and MetroHealth, are critical to the program’s success, Davis says.
The MetroHealth School Health Program is making a difference. Seventy-four percent of enrolled children are up to date on their vaccinations compared to 66 percent nationally.
Nearly three-quarters of enrolled students have had an annual well-child exam. And students who are enrolled in MetroHealth’s School Health Program are projected to miss five fewer days of school than their peers who are not enrolled in the program.
To support the School Health Program, go to metrohealth.org/donate and choose “School-Based Health Care” or call 216-778-5665.