Addressing Children’s Behavioral Health Through School Telehealth Programs
Children are the future, however what does the future hold for our children? The CDC estimates that as many as one out of five children experience a mental disorder in a given year and mental health has become an important public health issue. The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the rising rates of depression and anxiety resulting from digital addiction, which worsened exponentially during quarantine. The author stated that the digital drug of choice is the equivalent of the hypodermic needle for a wired generation.
Providing behavioral health services to children, particularly those living in rural communities, is challenging. However, a partnership between Blessing Health System and Teladoc Health has led to a pilot telehealth program in Missouri for a school district of 11,000 students. As a hybrid model, school nurses are able to connect with the local health system and create appropriate treatment plans based on the acuity of each situation. The school system has already seen the benefit of virtual health technology through decreased absences.
There were many factors in ensuring this pilot was effective. The school district’s Wi-Fi needed to be upgraded to guarantee reliability with the technology. School counselors were included in the program to integrate the behavioral health aspect. Parents were educated about the conveniences of telehealth and how to register their children. The program now intends to expand even more into behavioral health and into more schools.
This is a prime example of how effective partnerships between health systems, technology companies and school systems can be for local communities. As children return to in-person learning, and potential long-term effects of quarantine appear, programs such as this one weave a safety net and keep parents, teachers and healthcare providers in sync.