One local school district in Merced County has started offering in-school healthcare services free of charge to students and parents who opt-in, according to school officials..
The new service is costing the Delhi Unified School District nothing for its 2,600 students this year, Superintendent Adolfo Melara said.
The new system is similar to the way on-campus health services always worked, Melara told the Merced Sun-Star on Tuesday. When a student is feeling ill or gets injured, the student goes to the nurse's office or is helped by an authorized school staff member.
But the new system allows the trained official to electronically contact a licensed medical professional through an app on a tablet device. Using the tablet's camera feature, a complete medical checkup can be performed with the student, including the ordering of over-the-counter and prescription medicines.
Services include but are not limited to urgent care, health screenings, patient education, over-the-counter medicine, prescriptions and referrals to health care professionals, according to a Merced County Office of Education news release. The services only can be accessed during school hours.
Melara said DUSD, which is the first school district to offer free healthcare in Merced County, has noticed that barriers such as transportation, conflicts with work schedules, insurance and co-pays, hinder families' ability to give their children the best healthcare possible.
"We are also aware that a majority of students tend to be absent from school primarily due to illness, whether it be ongoing, urgent or other type of medical issue, which may require a doctor's visit," Melara said.
The ability for students to get checkups in school also helps eliminate the barriers of income, background, immigration status or current health coverage, Melara said.
The new program started for the district's three elementary schools in early December. Delhi Middle School and Delhi High School are slated to start the program soon, according to the news release.
The only requirement for students to be eligible is for parents to opt-in and give permission for the school district to provide the health services, Melara said. The school district has links on the schools' websites to get parents started.
The school district has contracted under a pilot program with Hazel Health Services, a San Francisco-based health corporation. The program has special rates that doesn't cost the school district anything this school year, and about $10 per student next school year, which would be charged to the district, Melara said.
After that, the school district board will need to decide whether to continue the program.
"My recommendation to the community and to the board will be to continue with this," Melara said. "It is a level of service that is world class for our students."