Addressing chronic need for children’s primary care
In areas across Louisiana, children face many barriers to healthcare, including lack of providers or transportation, misunderstanding symptoms, or competing priorities. Chronic diseases such as obesity and asthma can go untreated until a child becomes so sick, they’re taken to an emergency room for care. And many of them often wind up back in the emergency room because they don’t receive consistent follow-up care.
If children are provided options to get medical care in areas that are most convenient — school, home or church — they have a greater chance of staying in school, participating in activities and staying close to home, leading to a healthier solution for the entire family.
In recognition of this need, Health Centers in Schools, a division of Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, serves 40,000 school children in Baton Rouge area public schools with an innovative version of the traditional school nurse. Health Centers in Schools operates seven school-based health centers, and provides care at another 82 school sites.
Its mission is simple: To keep students healthy, in school, and ready to learn.
The program includes physicians, nurse practitioners, social workers and about 100 nurses. These nurses either rotate through schools in a common area, or stay in one of the seven school-based health centers. The program serves children and families throughout the Baton Rouge area to ensure underserved families and children get access to consistent healthcare. It also provides thousands of flu immunizations, vision and hearing screenings, dental exams and other primary care services each year.
“The school-based health centers are similar to physician’s offices, where medical doctors and nurse practitioners provide more extensive medical care than school nurses can, and social workers provide behavior counseling and other mental health services,” says Sue Catchings, Health Centers in Schools administrator.
Another example is the Baton Rouge Children’s Health Project. The program operates a pair of Mobile Medical Clinics, popularly known as the “blue buses.” It provides mobile primary care and mental and behavioral health services for children, especially those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and obesity.
The Behavioral Health and Resiliency Clinic’s goals are to assist children and families with their immediate mental health needs, provide psychosocial services, help with reintegration into their communities, and foster resilience and coping skills.
It also works closely with schools by providing psychoeducational testing in collaboration with Pupil Appraisal to help direct appropriate classroom interventions for children with learning and behavioral problems which impact learning.
The programs continue to provide much-needed care to children and teens who otherwise might go with out, Catchings says, and the programs continue to improve, such as adopting electronic health record systems, which improved efficiencies and allows for even more children to receive care.
“A healthy child grows into a healthy adult who then has the opportunity to contribute to our community and state,” Catchings says.?
Baton Rouge Children’s Health Project AKA "The Blue Buses" services include:
- Physicals, vaccinations
- Management of acute and chronic illnesses
- Patient education and community outreach
- Psychoeducational testing and treatment
- Mental health assessments
- Counseling(family, individual and group)
- Case management and mental health education
- Referrals to subspecialists