Feb. 26, 2017 -- A daytime doctor’s appointment for your child can be a real pain. Child misses school, parent misses work, everyone’s schedules get thrown off. But for some parents, taking a day – or even a few hours -- off work for a child’s appointment can have much bigger consequences.
Jessica Wright, mother of two Oxford students, was clear about the impact such an appointment would have on her: “One missed day of work equals one missed utility payment. I don’t have a good option.”
But she does have the Cleveland Clinic Children’s School-Based Health Center, a “mobile, full-service pediatric office staffed by healthcare professionals” that visits both Oxford and Boulevard Elementary Schools once each month. The program is available to any child within the CH-UH district, as long as their parent fills out the necessary paperwork.
Students can be referred by their parents or their teachers for anything from a stomach ache to asthma treatment to a mental health screening. Many children receive follow-up hearing and eye exams after being flagged by their school nurse. Others get flu shots in the fall or required immunizations so they’re legally able to stay in school.
Wright’s children were new to Oxford this fall, having just moved to Cleveland Heights from Houston, Texas following Wright’s divorce. Newly single and without a network of doctors in her new town, the first appointment she could set up for her children was three months after they started at Oxford.
“They needed their immunizations. Without the Clinic van, they would have missed too much school.”
Not only could both children receive their basic Well Visits and shots, but her third grade son Peyton also received referrals for occupational therapy. “The nurse calls me right from the van,” reports Wright. “She can talk to me in real time while she’s with my children; it's the next best thing to my being there.”
Peyton now receives OT services in Beachwood, with a three-year goal for improving his gross and fine motor skills.
Lynda Willis’ three grandchildren also utilize the van. Fourth grader Carlos has mild cerebral palsy and a permanent fracture in his left femur that leaves him with a limp. According to social worker Cindy Schmidt, who arranged for the Mobile Unit to come to Oxford, the nurse immediately put in orders for Carlos to be seen at the Clinic. “They knew they needed to jump on that right away so he wouldn’t be crippled for life.”
Willis says she had taken Carlos to several doctors prior to his visiting the van, but they all brushed off her concerns. “I wish they had noticed it earlier, but it wasn’t until he went to the van at school that his problem was taken seriously.”
Carlos now sees a neurologist and an orthopedic specialist and receives occupational and physical therapy at the Clinic. The mobile unit helps Willis feels like there’s someone at the school watching out for her grandson. “And Mrs. Schmidt really did so much to help him.”
Schmidt and Boulevard’s Karen Allen worked together to bring the Clinic’s Mobile Unit to CHUH. “This is how we can become a true community school,” says Schmidt, “and meet the needs of our students so they can come to school, stay in school and succeed in school.”
According to Cathy Quinn-Welsh, an advanced pediatric nurse practitioner who staffs the van, the Clinic has also begun offering tele-health services at Heights High where students can communicate with medical staff via video-conference. She hopes that the new high school will include a permanent room for the Clinic to staff.
Quinn-Welsh believes deeply in the program’s mission, which the Cleveland Clinic describes as a commitment to “ensuring that all students receive high-quality, comprehensive healthcare with the added convenience of being at the school where students spend most of their days.”
“That’s the beauty of what we’re doing,” says Quinn-Welsh, who also serves schools in Lakewood, Maple Heights, Warrensville Heights and East Cleveland. ”We’re finding children who need medical evaluations or services right in the schoolyard.”
She says that the greatest hurdle to serving the children who need care the most is getting parents to fill out the paperwork. “This is where Cindy (Schmidt) and Karen (Allen) are such a huge help.” Because the social workers already have relationships with students and their families, parents are much more likely to trust the service and allow their child to be taken out of the building and into a van where they will be touched by a stranger.
“The social workers can also let us know what other factors might be affecting a child, whether they’re being evaluated for special education services at school or whether their family is undergoing some sort of trauma or stress at home,” all of which impacts physical health and well-being.
Jessica Wright is adamant about the value of this program: “My kids can stay healthy and stay in school, which really is the whole point. And mine aren’t the only ones who need it. This is the best thing they could have done here.”
If any CHUH parent with a child not enrolled at Oxford or Boulevard would like to partake of these services, they should contact their school’s nurse for more information.