NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Education received an update Monday on the operations of two school health centers in the county, with some members pointing to the possibility of expanding the program in the future.
Lisa Mowry, CEO of CHANGE, Inc., was on hand to provide the board with the report. CHANGE currently operates health centers at Weirton Elementary School and on the Weir High and Weir Middle campuses.
“Over the past six years, we have steadily grown,” Mowry reported.
The school health centers fall under the umbrella of CHANGE’s family health care programs, and the agency operates 13 such centers in the tri-state area.
In the Hancock County School System, CHANGE began at Weirton Elementary School, providing services to 462 students in 2017. The Weir Complex School Health Center opened in 2019, at which time a total of 901 students were cared for, with 685 served Weirton Elementary and 216 on the Weir campus.
Those numbers have increased over the years, with Mowry indicating a total of 1,097 students served in 2020, 1,354 in 2021 and so far in 2022 there have been 917 students served, with 436 served at Weirton Elementary and 481 at the Weir campus. .
Among the services provided, Mowry noted, were 156 students diagnosed with a chronic illness, 113 received immunizations other than the COVID vaccine, 447 with a behavioral health diagnosis and 35 received dental checkups.
“We are currently only open to dentists at Weirton Elementary,” Mowry scored.
Of those students who provided services this year, 27 were under the age of 5; 328 are aged 5 to 10; 352 between 11 and 16; and 210 over the age of 17. Mowry notes that 12 percent live at or below the poverty level, with 8.7 percent uninsured; 47 percent are covered by Medicaid and 43 percent are covered by private insurance.
In addition, the centers serve approximately 75 students annually through a backpack food distribution program; provided 142 free physical education classes; 472 free COVID tests; and 54 free COVID vaccines. The high school has begun operating a store-style pantry, and students are also provided with educational and hygiene supplies.
Board member Larry Shaw asked if CHANGE receives federal funds and if it requires them to follow any specific mandates from the federal government. Mowry noted that some federal funds support select programs, much of their services are funded by grants and foundations, and most of their mandated activities revolve around submitting annual reports and audits.
Board Vice President Ed Fields asked about the possibility of expanding the school health center program to other schools in Hancock County, saying he knew there had been some funding previously.
“I think the funding is gone,” he added.
Mowry noted that some of these funds were made available through the CARES Act and are no longer available, and the available funding will not allow new facilities to be built.
“We can furnish the space and we can manage the space,” she said.
Mowry noted that in addition to Hancock County, CHANGE also operates school health centers in Brooke and Jefferson counties.