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Students, teachers won’t have to leave school for health care

Matt Holbrook, a physician’s assistant at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, and Larissa Hogg Bailey, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at Mountain Instant Care, are among the health care providers who will treat students and teachers at Letcher County schools under a new program that begins in August.

Matt Holbrook, a physician’s assistant at Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation, and Larissa Hogg Bailey, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) at Mountain Instant Care, are among the health care providers who will treat students and teachers at Letcher County schools under a new program that begins in August.

Children who attend schools in the Letcher County Public School System will soon have the opportunity to receive medical care while at school.

The Letcher County Board of Education and Mountain Comprehensive Health Corporation have entered into an agreement that will allow local health care providers to treat students, faculty and staff in school facilities.

“We’re taking our medical clinic to the schools,” said Matt Holbrook, a physician’s assistant who was been employed by MCHC for the past nine years. “We are taking a familiar face and going to school with them. That way they feel comfortable getting care there.”

Holbrook will work full time with the school-based clinic. Larissa Hogg Bailey, an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), and nurse practitioner Brenda Ritchie, both of whom work at Mountain Instant Care in Whitesburg, will also treat students at schools.

“The idea was explored about letting nurse practitioners in the schools to treat students when they have a problem and faculty and staff and for the purpose of reducing absenteeism, for the purpose of lowering the spread of communicable diseases (and) for the purpose of being able to give treatment for students that their parents who may not have access to vehicles to come and get them and take them out of school,” MCHC director and CEO Mike Caudill told the school board at its July meeting on Monday.

Caudill said the idea has quickly become popular.

“I think everybody realizes the value of that and realize that in this day in time many families in hard economic times that it could provide a service that is needed (and) is beneficial to the student and also benefi cial to the school system and us, too,” he said.

Holbrook said he and Lisa Collins, a school nurse at Letcher Elementary School, came up with the idea of establishing a school-based clinic in Letcher County.

“We were talking one day and she said it would be wonderful if you could actually come to the school and help treat the kids here because there are so many that are sick and can’t get to the clinic,” he said. “I have school nurses call all the time and say this kid has been sick multiple days. Can you help? This way we are seeing a need.”

Holbrook said the goal of the program is to help children stay well and stay in school.

“We’re trying to do the most convenient way of bringing quality healthcare to them,” said Holbrook. “This is something I see that is wonderful for the community and kids. We have to keep them happy and well.”

Bailey, who described the district’s initiative as “proactive” and “cutting edge,” said students will be more comfortable to be treated at school rather than at a doctor’s office.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Bailey. “I think the parents are going to be very responsive to this. I think it is going to be a good thing for convenience for the parents. Lots of people are losing their jobs and hopefully we can make this a real asset to our school system.”

Bailey said if a child wakes up sick and parents are unsure if the child should go to school, parents can bring the child to school to be seen by a provider. In some instances, parents won’t need to leave work for their children to receive care.

Bailey pointed out that students don’t need to bring money to school to be treated by a provider. Parents will be billed.

“A lot of these children may not receive care otherwise that we are going to be able to identify early and get them the care they need,” said Bailey.

The program will be operated under the umbrella of MCHC, which is a federally-funded health center. Private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare will be accepted as payment. Students will also be able to participate in a discounted program for medication.

“We can take care of those kids that don’t have any coverage with our sliding scale program,” said MCHC physician Van Breeding. “No kid will be left out.”

Parents do need to fill out a packet of forms, which will be handed out at school open houses in the next few weeks.

“It is a lot of paperwork, but just to think that you aren’t going to have to leave work,” said Breeding. “You are going to be able to have your child seen by a knowledgeable provider.”

Breeding will monitor the program, which he said will be high quality.

“We wanted to make sure we had quality providers,” said Breeding. “I couldn’t ask for better people to put in those positions that I trust completely.”

At the beginning of the school year, Ritchie and Bailey will provide services at Martha Jane Potter Elementary School, Fleming- Neon Middle School and Letcher County Central High School. Holbrook will be at the high school, Letcher Elementary School and Letcher Middle School.

After about three weeks into the school year, Bailey will also see students and teachers at Cowan Elementary School. Holbrook will add West Whitesburg Elementary School and Whitesburg Middle School to his schedule. A provider will also make rounds at Arlie Boggs Elementary School and the alternative education center.

Holbrook said ideally a provider will be at most schools twice a week and at Arlie Boggs once a week. Toward the end of 2012, Holbrook said providers would be available at schools from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

“This is incredible,” said Dr. Sam Quillen Jr., a member of the school board. “This is one of the best, neatest, new ideas that has been in the system maybe forever.”

The Letcher County Health Department has provided school nurses for the past six years and will continue to do so.

“Nurses will still be very vital to us,” said Holbrook. “We’ll just be adding in that extra care they couldn’t provide. Instead of saying you need to go to MCHC, we’ll be there.”

Holbrook would like to decrease the number of flu outbreaks in the schools. He predicts that flu season will be a busy time for the providers.

Space already exists at each school for a nurse. The providers would like for each school to have an exam room complete with privacy curtains and exam tables. The rooms will be fully stocked with equipment and supplies.

The health department has applied for a grant to provide equipment and supplies for the centers. MCHC has applied for a grant for fixture remodeling for the clinic areas.

Letcher Schools Supt. Anna Craft said State Rep. John Short, State Rep. Leslie Combs, State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner, and Congressman Hal Rogers have played a part in getting the program started.

“When they are on board and see something good, somehow the wheels go a little faster,” said Craft. “I’m just tickled to death. The opportunities to help our communities and our staff and particularly in these stressing economic times is wonderful.”

Holbrook told the school board he would like to work in the schools until he is eligible to retire in 25 years.

“It’s our hopes that it’ll get so busy we’ll have to have a provider in every school all day long every day,” said Breeding.

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