DALLICES – The North Wasco County School District (NWCSD) Board of Directors is considering expanding school health services.
During the Superintendent’s Report at the NWCSD School Board meeting on November 17, the School Board heard a presentation from Christine Niculescu, Physician Assistant as well as Director of the School Health Center (SBHC) at One Community Health regarding bringing school health services to NWCSD.
According to Niculescu’s presentation, in 2020, the Columbia Gorge Education Services District (ESD) conducted a community health assessment with the goal of gauging any unmet health needs of students in Wasco County, collecting data from both youth and guardians through surveys, hearings, focus groups, and interviews. Both young people and parents identified unmet needs as mental health care – 30% of Year 8 students and 25% of Year 11 students at The Dalles reported experiencing symptoms of depression in the previous school year – Preventive and Primary Care – Illnesses injuries and diseases. Health Care – Addressing health barriers experienced by Hispanic/Latino and Native American/American Indian youth.
According to the presentation, there were also Wasco County residents who desired Medicare but did not receive Medicare for specific reasons, with data showing that 47% of respondents identified as uninsured had not received Medicare in the previous year, And 19% of Medicaid-insured families report it.
In general, school health services are an easy way for young people to access medical and mental health care. They provide comprehensive services, and they deliver them in a… cost-effective manner,” Niculescu said, noting that the main services offered by the school health services include physical sports, well-child check-ups, immunizations, visits for acute illnesses and injuries and mental health services including provision of Counseling for issues such as depression and anxiety.
According to Neculescu, there are currently 78 School Health Centers (SBHCs) in 25 of Oregon’s 36 counties, 40 of which are located in rural communities — including the neighboring Hood River County School District. Currently, Oregon school health centers are usually accredited. This is how you stay sustainable. So they’re receiving funding from the State of Oregon, through local public health authorities, and then also through community medical partners.
The SBHC’s main goal, Niculescu said, is to improve access and reduce barriers to school-age youth getting health care in situations such as not having or not being able to be evaluated by a primary care provider, and seeing students for free if they are uninsured because of their facility status. Federally eligible health, and reduced barriers such as transfer or absenteeism, since centers are located on campus and students will have to rely less on parents or guardians to drive them to appointments and sacrifice less class time by dropping out of school.
“It doesn’t make children and families choose between getting health care and deciding whether or not to miss class,” Niculescu said.
Citing data from a recent status report provided by the SBHC State Program Office, Niculescu said that during the 2020-21 school year, more than 17,000 students were reported to have received SBHC care in a total of 56,000 visits, which averaged approximately three visits by each student. during the academic year. She indicated that the academic year 2020-21 has already seen a decrease in the number of visits since this year is co-ed learning due to COVID 19.
“Prior to the pandemic, we were seeing a huge increase in the number of visits that SBHC was doing through 2020, which we’ve already seen a significant decrease in. So of the 56,000 visits, 40% were for primary care 51% were for behavioral health, and a lot of that was across care telehealth during that school year,” Niculescu said.
“When you introduce something new like this into a community, there can be some hesitation and some questions about whether or not it brings real value to the community, and I think something to think about is that we know that when big companies introduce business into communities… it doesn’t It’s not only associated with improved health outcomes, but also improved educational outcomes, as things like reduced absenteeism and cumulative growth rates go up,” said Niculescu, who noted that the SBHC is not designed to replace primary care providers, but to be a resource for the community and school districts. “When students have access to reliable and accurate medical information, they can make healthy decisions for themselves that align with their own values and are in line with those of their family, rather than learning about things on social media, etc…”
Niculescu noted current efforts to expand NWCSD’s school health services and address needs identified in the 2020 Community Health Assessment, including helping students access quality visits and physical sports, as well as encouraging use of the virtual behavioral health program offered through One Community Health and HRCSD SBHC.
“There are telehealth portals and every school in the district where students can enroll in this program and access behavioral health services virtually with one of our behavioral health counselors at One Community Health,” she said.
Niculescu asked the School Board to continue holding events for Mobile Unit One Community Health visiting NWCSD for well-child visits and student athletic visits, “I would like to eventually start increasing our visits to Dallas High School to get an understanding of the needs to understand what the real demand for these visits is. And doing that with the mobile unit is a really easy way to introduce services to children and get a sense of the demand for what they need, and the types of services they require.”
Niculescu noted that the ultimate goal would eventually be to have a brick-and-mortar SBHC in The Dalles accessible to all NWCSD students.