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Manchester is launching a telehealth program in two elementary schools

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Jason Moon
/
NHPR
The new program will be offered to students at Beech Street and Gossler Park elementary schools.

The Manchester School District and Amoskeag Health recently agreed to pilot school-based health centers at two local elementary schools in an effort to help families with difficulty accessing health services during the school year.

The health centers will be based at Beech Street and Gossler Park elementary schools. The district plans to reevaluate the program after a year to decide whether to expand to more schools.

Rather than requiring a student’s caregiver to pick them up and take them to another appointment elsewhere when they’re not feeling well, students at these schools will have the option to be seen remotely by an Amoskeag Health medical professional without leaving the school nurse's office. Those working on this new program say it could help with all kinds of common ailments, including asthma and upper respiratory infections, stomach aches, headaches, sore throat, or behavioral concerns.

After a student is evaluated by the school nurse for triage, they could be seen by another provider via a video call. In most cases, those working on this program say the appointments can be quick — but if a student is dealing with mental health concerns, they could speak with a professional for up to 30 minutes.

Those involved in the program hope it can improve health equity for local students by eliminating some of the barriers their parents or caregivers might encounter when caring for a sick child.

Amoskeag Health recently received a $1 million grant from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services to establish the first school-based health center in New Hampshire. They aspire to keep students more time in the classroom and improve test scores.

Lara Quiroga, who leads community-integrated health initiatives at Amoskeag Health, said her organization and Manchester School Districts have been looking for a building where they could provide these kinds of services for seven years. But as access to telehealth options expanded during the pandemic, they saw the perfect tool to give families the needed services.

“We literally just need a nurse and a computer,” she said.

Quiroga said this new model of school-based medical care could be especially effective for families that struggle when they have to pick children up from school or can’t find a provider to treat them quickly. The service is also designed to help families that are hesitant to access care because they are undocumented or don't have insurance.

In the next few weeks, families with children at Beech Street and Gossler Park schools will receive more information on signing up for the program. Students will not be required to use these services and will only be seen with permission from a parent or guardian. Parents or guardians will also have the option to join the video calls during their child’s school-based telehealth appointments if they want.

Gabriela Lozada is a Report for America corps member. Her focus is on Latinx community with original reporting done in Spanish for ¿Qué hay de Nuevo NH?.

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