Progress has been slow on the first agreement of its kind between the Volusia County School District and Advent Health (formerly the Florida Hospital).
The partnership that exchanged advertising rights for health services, education and some of the money has had a difficult start this summer. It seemed to come out of nowhere when it was announced in July, when the district had been working for months and the leaders of the competing hospital chain Halifax Health felt left out.
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Even after all this, it took a while for the partnership to begin to take shape and start influencing things at the school level.
"It takes a lot of time to put all the pieces together," said Kelly Amy, District Strategic Partnerships Manager. "Much of this year creates the structures necessary for the partnership to be as fruitful as possible. And it takes a little while.
But as classes resume Monday, things are starting to take off in 2019.
In January, 36 schools will have access to e-care, or the opportunity to see a doctor via a video chat, designed to reduce the number of absent students a significant portion of the year. The district is also laying the groundwork for its new sports concussion protocol. And schools are starting to reorganize their health care academies with new equipment and learning opportunities.
January marks the beginning of the $ 2 million five-year transaction. This is how it starts to take shape.
One of the main goals of the partnership with Advent Health is to reduce the number of Volusia County students chronically absent. It is a priority for Superintendent Tom Russell because of the link between student attendance and student achievement.
Volusia County records the number of students who miss 10% of their studies, two days a month, or 18 days a year. About 17% of Volusia students missed this number of days. The state monitors chronic absenteeism as a student who misses more than 21 days. As a result, Volusia exceeded the state average for the 2016-2017 school year.
Although chronic absenteeism can be attributed to a number of factors, the Advent Health partnership focuses on a fundamental cause: medical problems.
"The discussion then turned to how Advent Health could help students get health care so they have less time outside of school to get treatment," said Amy. .
Noting that missed days can accumulate quickly when students need to see a doctor, the e-care solution is born. It is a free service for students and employees that parents can use if they have to pick up their sick child at school. For the most part, they can make an appointment with the doctor at the school clinic on an iPad. Doctors can talk to parents and students, diagnose them and even send prescriptions.
"We hope it will be a model that will take off," said Amy.
Apart from e-care partnership, the district has set up a series of other programs to try to keep students in school. They send "letters of encouragement" to parents of children who miss a lot of school and contain data showing how their child compares to other students. There was a contest for students to create works of art that encourage others to come to school. The directors have the challenge that schools improve their rates of chronic absenteeism. Social workers even make home visits in some cases.
If online health care systems do not help, the hospital and district are committed to being flexible and looking for alternatives.
"Ensuring our kids are heading towards graduation, that's really the goal," said Dianne Martin-Morgan, coordinator of School Social Services. Offering care online is "just another tool in the toolbox".
Another aspect of the partnership agreement was for Advent Health to work closely with student athletes and develop a concussion protocol.
This protocol includes tests on all athletes to establish a foundation of cognitive function. If an athlete suffers a concussion at any given time, he passes the test again and doctors can compare the results to determine when they are healthy enough to return to the game.
"It gives parents some comfort that there is a proactive approach," said Lary Beal, District Sports Specialist. "We do not expect that a concussion has occurred, so parents feel a little more comfortable."
By November, more than 2,000 of the province's 5,000 or so student athletes had been tested.
This $ 1-million in-kind and $ 200,000-per-year partnership for the district also includes a significant education component, with the hospital agreeing to offer internships and field visits. students, as well as holding a career fair in the spring to recruit graduates.
Most of the money is distributed to Volusia's nine colleges and high schools, which spent the money on equipment such as ECG devices and blood pressure cuffs.
Some money has been set aside for transportation to Advent Health sites for tours and internships.
And another part of the money was reserved for district directors to enable them to create new health academies. Amy said that five years from now, she hopes to create five new programs.
"When you look at the number of jobs, the data shows that employment opportunities in the health sector will continue to explode," she said. "It really helps prepare students for viable careers."