MVRHS discusses school-based health center - freetxp

MVRHS discusses school-based health center

In order to better meet the needs of students, staff, and their families, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) is looking at what it would mean to establish a school-based health center on campus.

Behavioral health coordinator and school-based health center research specialist for Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools, Kim Garrison, presenting the idea to school officials at Monday’s MVRHS committee meeting. Garrison has spent the last several years gathering data surrounding models and frameworks to implement recommendations made by MedStar for the high school. Because the high school already has school-based health services, Garrison said, it’s important to understand how a full-fledged health center would differ.

In 2018, MedStar conducted a comprehensive health report for the high school and laid out opportunities they could take advantage of to improve their services. Garrison said the MedStar recommendations most closely align with a school based health center,

School based health centers are not an extension of school health services, according to Garrison. “It’s not ‘well you have a school nurse so why do you need to have a nurse practitioner and a school based health center?’ The school is not the fiscal agent for a school based health center, it needs to be a health agency that sponsors it.”

Typically, schools partner with a health organization and provide a location and some upstart capital to create a more proximate and accessible space to serve the education community.

Oftentimes, the school based health centers will provide services to family members of students and healthcare to staff. Some of them go as far as being full community health centers where any member of the community can utilize the services.

All quality of care standards and privacy requirements would be the same with a school health center as it would with an off site healthcare facility. Garrison provided a few examples of comparable health centers that the high school could model their proposed services after. River Valley Counseling Center is primarily focused on behavioral health, the Hilltown Community Health Center mixes dental, vision, and is the most comprehensive of the examples, and the Murdock School-based Health Center operates on site at a school through the Heywood Hospital system.

Some of the centers Garrison has researched are on school campuses, but are not directly attached to schools, while some are located at satellite locations in between middle school and high school campuses.

Garrison identified studies that have established staffing ratios based on the number of students and student need. She said the high school center would call for a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner, social workers, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a case manager, a care coordinator, and some additional nursing staff. However, Garrison stressed that the ratio set by the National Association of School Psychologists is based on when students and families are doing well, and not in the middle of a public health crisis.

For a school like MVRHS, Garrison said, a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant would be available 12 to 20 hours per week, a medical doctor would be available as needed, nursing and behavioral health staff would work 12 to 20 hours per week, and office support staff would also be required to work 12 to 20 hours per week.

In order to serve the entire pre-k through grade 12 population, Garrison said, those numbers would need to be doubled in order to meet the level of need for the whole Island.

In a recent MVRHS parent survey that received 156 responses, 85 percent of high school parents said they would want their children to utilize a school-based health center, 13 percent said they were unsure, and the remainder said they would not support the model. The survey was offered in both English and Portuguese, although Garrison admitted there was a very small portion of Brazilian Portuguese families who responded. Garrison said most health centers like this operate at no cost, or at a very low cost.

In other business, president of the Sharks Baseball Foundation Russ Curran was before school officials to request their permission to apply to the proper regulatory authorities (the town of Oak Bluffs) for a seasonal beer and wine license. Curran said he wants to attract more folks to the ballpark for Sharks games, and said many patrons have called and asked whether the field will ever offer alcohol.

MVRHS committee chair Amy Houghton asked what the Sharks Foundation nonprofit projects their proceeds would be from the sale of alcohol over the season, and whether it would be appropriate to condition any approval to ensure that all investments into the boys baseball field and Sharks field would be matched dollar-for-dollar for the girls softball field.

Curran said he always tries to help both teams out as much as possible, but noted that each field has different needs. “I can’t specifically say I can go dollar for dollar because that softball field is a whole different animal,” Curran said.

Committee member Robert Lionette simply asked why the Sharks Foundation feels the need to serve alcohol at their games. “We don’t need it, but it adds to going to a baseball game,” Curran said. “How many people have gone to Fenway Park and paid $15 for a beer? We get calls all the time where people ask if we serve alcohol, we say no, and we get hung up on.”

Committee member Skipper Manter said he doesn’t think the high school should be endorsing anything that promotes alcohol consumption on school grounds.

“If you’re not going to go to the game because you can’t get alcohol there, then maybe you shouldn’t be going to the game, you’ve got other issues,” Manter said. “We have a tremendous amount of substance abuse on this island, including the consumption of alcohol which has gotten worse through COVID.” He added that just because many other collegiate baseball leagues offer beer or a glass of wine at their games, it doesn’t mean MVRHS should.

MVRHS principal Sara Dingledy said she supports the beer and wine license because it promotes a face-to-face event that brings the community together, and asked Curran to keep in mind that whatever entities he brings in to work on the boys/ Sharks field, that he consider concurrent upgrades to the softball field. “That just feels right with me,” she said.

Curran described the alcohol concessions at the Sharks games as a “beer garden” where an area would be cordoned off for people to purchase alcoholic beverages. Upon purchase, those patrons would be required to stay in the cordoned area, and each person would get a drink ticket that limits the number of purchases.

Whether the school or the town requires a police detail on certain days when the crowds are anticipated to be large, Curran said he is happy to provide one. He added that all game ticket sales are online, so the organization knows when the stands will be packed.

A motion to approve the Sharks Foundation request to apply for a seasonal beer and wine license passed, with Manter as the dissenting vote.

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