ATLANTA — All students at Atlanta Public Schools can now access physical and emotional telehealth services.
The Atlanta Board of Education and the district approved a contract to provide these services for every student in the district’s traditional schools at its Monday meeting.
The contract with provider Hazel Health is a year-to-year agreement for $500,000 each year, or roughly $15 for each student in the district’s traditional schools, according to the district.
Implementation of these services will begin immediately with the goal of all schools having access to telehealth services by the end of the 2022-2023 school year, according to the district.
The district says it took in response to health concerns elevated during the first year of the pandemic and the 2021-2022 school year.
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According to the district, nearly 1,300 students reported having at least one chronic condition, and 25,300 students were sent home by a nurse at their school. Additionally, 25 % of district students from grades 3-12 were elevated or extremely elevated for risk of developing an emotional or behavior disorder, based on results from student surveys.
Lack of funding, insurance challenges, guardian non-compliance, and provider shortages are among the barriers to supporting students, the district says.
“It is imperative that our scholars have access to physical and mental health services,” APS Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring said. “Removing these barriers is a game-changer for us because simply put, our scholars cannot reach their full academic potential if they are not well. I am grateful to our board for having the vision to make this commitment and invest in our schools and scholars.”
Currently, two APS schools – Fickett and Finch Elementary Schools – offer telehealth services through a partnership with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and APS partners currently with seven mental health wraparound providers assigned to schools throughout the district. The contract with Hazel will supplement these services, not replace them, according to the district.
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Physical health services will be provided by Hazel doctors, nurse practitioners and physician associates.
Mental health services will be provided by locally licensed, culturally competent therapists who specialize in addressing the needs of children and adolescents.
Services will be available Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Expanding telehealth services for all of our scholars can increase their access to care and address acute physical or short-term mental health challenges while permitting them to stay in school and focus on learning,” ABOE Chair Eshe’ Collins said. “We are thrilled to provide this service for our students and their families.”
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