As the school year begins and many uncertainties remain due to the coronavirus pandemic, one thing is certain – St. Charles Parish public school students who utilize Access Health Louisiana’s two school health centers will still have access to care, whether or not they are learning in a classroom or virtually at home.
In addition to operating two local community health centers, AHL runs two school-based health centers in St. Charles Parish – the Albert Cammon Wellness Center in St. Rose, which services the students of Albert Cammon Middle and St. Rose Elementary School, and the J.B. Martin/R.J. Vial Wellness Center in Paradis, which services the staff and students at those two schools.
“We are working closely with the St. Charles Parish School District to ensure that students have access to healthcare services,” AHL Director of Outreach and Development Chenier Reynolds-Montz said. “Whether students return virtually or in person, we will be able to keep our school- based health centers running. We are using telemedicine to offer primary care and behavioral health services to students, and our pharmacy is offering free home delivery of prescriptions so that families can receive their medications without leaving the house.”
The school clinics provide primary care services, including well checks, immunizations, sports physicals, behavioral health offerings and acute and diagnostic services.
“For parents who are new to telemedicine, our staff is well trained in explaining it and there are videos on our website to see what a telemedicine visit will look like from start to finish,” Reynolds-Montz said.
Nurse Practitioner Lauren Ellis, who works at the Albert Cammon Wellness Center, said the center is extremely important in treating an underserved population of children that might not otherwise have the opportunity for well visits and immunizations.
Ever since schools closed in March, Ellis said she has been conducting telemedicine calls to students who required continuous care and prescriptions to keep their health ailments, especially asthma, under control.
“Everybody cares about these kids and everybody wants the best care for them,” she said. “It’s going to look a lot different this year, but I’m happy we’ll still be able to be there for the kids.”
Ellis said because it is difficult for some parents to take off work and take their child to a primary care provider, the school clinic fills a large need in the community.
“It’s a difficult time for all of us,” she said. “We’re trying to work with the community as much as possible while keeping everyone safe.”
Physician’s Assistant Christine McDaniel, who works at the JB Martin / RJ Vial Wellness Center, said families of students who use the school-based clinics are never billed for service.
“The main thing we’re going to really try to encourage is that the kids keep up with their prescriptions, especially the kids with asthma and allergies,” she said. “We’d really like to encourage parents to get and keep immunizations up to date, as well as the well visits. We want to get kids back to their regular preventative care, and for the kids with chronic diseases, we encourage the parent to keep those diseases as controlled as possible.”
Reynolds-Montz said AHL’s aim is to keep the children as healthy as possible, adding The American Academy of Pediatrics also strongly supports the continued provision of health care for children during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since the onset of the pandemic, a significant drop in well-child visits has resulted in delays in vaccinations, delays in appropriate screenings and referrals and delays in anticipatory guidance to assure optimal health,” the AAP website states. “Pediatricians have rapidly adapted to provide appropriate elements of well exams through telehealth when clinically warranted. However, additional elements require in-person visits. Concern exists that delays in vaccinations may result in secondary outbreaks with vaccine-preventable illnesses.”
Reynolds-Montz said for services when telemedicine visits could not be used, the school clinics would be scheduling appointments to ensure proper cleaning time and social distancing protocol.
For more information on AHL, visit www.accesshealthla.org.