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HRSA grant awarded to School Health Centers for facilities, technology

| Date Posted: 8/9/2011

BISCOE – Thousands of school children have passed through the doors of the two FirstHealth Montgomery County School Health Centers. Children with flu, Strep, pink eye, appendicitis and broken bones. Children needing well child checks, vaccines, sports physicals, nutritional advice and mental health counseling.

During the 2010-2011 school year alone, the East Middle School Center in Biscoe recorded 1,632 nursing visits and 151 medical visits. The numbers were similar at West Middle School Center in Mt. Gilead with 1,621 nursing visits and 128 medical visits.  When combining all visit types, 7,637 student visits were completed at both School Health Centers.

“Without the School Health Centers, many of these children would have no alternative for health care other than costly emergency room care,” says Family Nurse Practitioner Gina Smith, FNP-C. “Fortunately, the Centers provide both acute and preventive care regardless of the ability to pay.”

After 11 years of operation, the modular units housing the School Health Centers have begun to show their age and services have outgrown the limited space. The 20-mile distance between the centers has also put a burden on the professional staff, especially Smith, who has a half-hour across-county drive from one location to the other. A $499,988 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will help alleviate both situations by providing the funds to rebuild the centers while incorporating telehealth and videoconferencing technology into their operation.

“The School Health Centers and the children of Montgomery County are more than deserving of this grant opportunity,” says Rae Williams, R.N., administrative director of FirstHealth Medical Practice Management. “Words can’t express how fortunate we are to be able to use these funds to construct new modular centers for these children, allowing us to further facilitate all aspects of their health care. This is a fantastic opportunity for us.”

The services of the FirstHealth Montgomery County School Health Centers are available to all children enrolled in Montgomery County public schools. Seventy-eight percent of the children served through the School Health Centers program are either uninsured or covered by Medicaid or N.C. Health Choice.

“Many rely on the School Health Centers as their sole source of care,” Smith says.

While the improved facilities will provide additional space for staff and services, the telehealth and videoconferencing technology will allow Smith and other professional personnel, including a mental health counselor and a dietitian, to be electronically available to both locations at the same time. FirstHealth is studying the possibility of this equipment providing a telehealth link to FirstHealth Montgomery Memorial Hospital in nearby Troy and FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst.

HRSA funding awarded grants totaling $2,277,259 to nine school-based health centers in North Carolina through the School-based Health Centers Capital Program, the first-ever source of unique federal funding support for school-based health centers.

Nationwide, more than 350 organizations applied for funding and 278 projects received grants. In North Carolina, projects in Alamance, Mitchell, Durham, Henderson, Mitchell, Rockingham, Caldwell and Yancey as well as Montgomery County were funded.

For more information on the FirstHealth Montgomery County School Health Centers, visit www.firsthealth.org.

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