PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY, Md. — Prince George's County Public Schools is expanding the health care options available to its students starting in October.
The school district is launching a new partnership in October with Hazel Health to give access to virtual medical appointments and therapy sessions to all students. The visits can occur via computer while the students are at home or at school, and will be provided for free, regardless of a family's insurance situation.
“Our goal is to prevent kids from going home," Dr. Traci Jones said. "We need them to be healthy, so that they can learn to be academically successful.”
Dr. Jones serves as the supervisor of PGCPS' Office of School Health.
She said there will be kiosks with iPads and basic medical tools set up in health rooms at 63 schools and academies throughout the school system.
“They're going to provide us with a kiosk that includes an iPad…they're going to provide us blood pressure cuffs, scale, and audiometer so that they can look at their ears, the light so they can look down their throat so that they can actually physically see what we're seeing," Dr. Jones said.
She said the school nurse will use the tools provide as they and the student communicate with the provider virtually.
Then, if they need a common over-the-counter medication, the nurse can give it to the student, and they can go back to class.
Students will also be able to speak with mental health counselors via the system at school or at home.
The services will be available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Dr. Jones stressed that students can only take advantage of telehealth if the district has a signed consent form from families first. She said they will be sent out soon.
"At Hazel, we believe all children deserve to be seen, heard and cared for," a video statement on the health provider's website says. With your partnership, "Hazel provides telehealth doctor visits and counseling sessions for students right from your school ... Most students who see Hazel doctors for a physical health concern returned to class feeling better in about 15 minutes."
The health care provider already works with school districts across the nation, serving nearly two million students. Hazel describes itself as the "national leader in school-based telehealth." Dr. Travis Gayles, Montgomery County's former chief of public health services, now serves as Hazel Health's chief health officer. He has published research on topics ranging from bullying to risky teen behavior.