New Castle County partners with school districts and the Delaware School-Based Health Alliance to bring wellness centers to elementary and middle schools in underserved communities.
The investment, announced last week by County Superintendent Matt Meyer of Brookside Elementary School, will help support families and communities with limited resources and address trauma experienced by students before and during the pandemic.
The program is a partnership between school districts, the county government, and the Delaware School-Based Health Alliance, among others. The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services provide support and advice.
The four schools currently funded for this program include Louis L. Redding Middle School (also serving Silver Lake Elementary School), Brookside Elementary School, McCullough Middle School, and Richardson Park Elementary School.
Each school serves a high percentage of children and families in need who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The four wellness centers will be funded by grants from the America Rescue Plan. More state and federal funding is being sought to bring the centers to more Delaware schools.
One in six children lived in food-insecure households before the pandemic, more than 25% of Delaware children have parents who lack secure employment, and half of Delaware families struggled to cope with expenses during the pandemic, according to the Delaware 2021 Kids Count report.
COVID-19 has also delayed medical care in a third of households with children, the report said.
“Wellness Centers are meant to be available for minor illnesses that you can treat quickly and get [students] back in the classroom,” said Marihelen Barrett, registered nurse and director of the Delaware School Based Health Alliance. “It’s not meant to replace the primary care provider.”
Instead, wellness centers will work with other school staff, such as nurses and psychologists, and community doctors to create plans for managing student health or resolving any health issues. chronic health. Nemours and ChristianaCare are some of the community partners involved in this initiative.
Health needs that can be met by school wellness centers include:
- Treatments for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders
- Nutrition advice
- Health Promotion Education
- Sailing insurance
- Preventive care such as physical exams, sports physical exams, vaccinations and screenings
- Navigation and liaison with social services
- Referrals and connections to community primary care, specialist care, oral health care and behavioral health care
Although the centers will not provide ongoing mental health services, they will offer initial consultations to help students research next steps.
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Although the program is still tentative, Barrett said, the county hopes to have a contract for the wellness centers in early January, followed by a soft launch of the service in mid-spring. Full-service wellness centers are planned for the 2023-2024 school year, with funding through the 2024-2025 school year.
“We wanted to start because there are so many needy students with pandemic trauma,” Barrett said. “And one of the goals is to teach kids about health literacy so they know how to manage their own health and how to understand their health.”
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