Ms. Donna Robinson is the Wellness Coordinator at Magazine School District’s School-Based Health Center (SBHC) in Magazine, Arkansas. Magazine is a small, rural town with a population size of approximately 800 people. Magazine SBHC began using telehealth in 2016 through the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Institute for Digital Health & Innovation: Public Schools Program (formerly called STAR), and they continue to enhance and develop their telehealth services. This program focuses on mental health, physical health, nutrition, and dental health through telemedicine.
Overall, the implementation of telehealth services has significantly improved access to health care in this area. Ms. Robinson stated that by using telehealth services their mental health providers have been able to make better, more consistent connections with the students and their families. Medication management and yearly assessments were extremely difficult to complete in-person on a timely basis, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. The largest area of need for the SBHC is mental health support, emphasized during the COVID-19 pandemic. Without telehealth services, students were not able to receive their mental health services due to the school closing.
Many students have asked about beginning or continuing telehealth services through the UAMS Public Schools Program. Parents of students using telehealth have mentioned to Ms. Robinson that their children prefer telehealth to in-person consults because they feel they can open up more, and get more out of their sessions.
While telehealth has proven to be extremely useful in Magazine, the largest setback is the lack of broadband within this area. Many students lack appropriate connectivity in their homes. Robinson also stated that providers are in desperate need of more telehealth education, including telehealth etiquette and equipment training. Telehealth has significantly changed the way students and providers communicate, but there are still major improvements needed.
Candace Lewis, program manager for the Public Schools Program added, “I am excited to be a part of this program. As we continue to build relationships with students, parents, teachers, and SBHCs in the districts that we currently serve, it is our hope that we can expand this program to many other school districts throughout the state.”