New Cleveland schools health clinics plan moves forward with ARPA funding
Cleveland City Council Monday approved $3.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to help Cleveland Metropolitan School District stand up three new brick and mortar health clinics in school buildings, along with funding a broader "Integrated Health Initiative" to help student, family and employee physical and mental health.
It's still to be decided which schools will host the new health clinics, which will be staffed by local healthcare providers like MetroHealth. Cleveland schools CEO Eric Gordon told Cleveland City Council's Workforce, Education, Training & Youth Development last week that the criteria for where is based on what neighborhoods most need additional access to health care resources. Some CMSD schools already have health clinics in them, while others have hospital-affiliated clinics nearby.
"We're also looking at a map that MetroHealth manages on health care deserts," Gordon said. "So what part of our community have absolutely no health care?
Outside of the three new clinics - which will be built out or created by renovations in school buildings with the ARPA funds provided by Cleveland City Council - the broader Integrated Health Initiative has several other components, according to an executive summary, including:
- Outfitting schools with the supplies for a "medical cart" and equipment including cold storage for vaccines, "medical supplies, and/or a private room available and equipped for telehealth and mental health appointments."
- Updating the technology needed for telehealth appointments and building secure and soundproof spaces in school buildings to utilize those telehealth services. Those telehealth services will include mental and physical health consulting.
- A beefed up communication campaign to get the word out about the initiative, with the key being schools getting parental consent for students to use the health services.
Councilman Joe Jones asked Gordon how much funding the school district still has from its own federal COVID-19 rescue distribution. Gordon responded that about $299 million has been accounted for so far, with another $165 million still to be spent by June 2024. Jones ultimately ended up voting for the integrated health proposal but reminded Gordon that the city has plenty of other things it needs to use its relief funding on.
"We have capital projects that have not been allocated (funds) to," Jones said. They're still sitting in the queue from ten or 15 years ago. Work that needs to be done in the city of Cleveland where we need to allocate those funds."
Gordon says the district has budgeted about
$10 million dollars over the next five years for the program and will hopefully be able to continue it after that.
"That would presume that we continue to be financially solvent, which we are projected to be, and that it would presume that at the point that we do need to return to the ballot for a levy, that this would be one of the things that we share with the public that was an investment with the last levy dollars," he said.
He added that the program should be sustainable from the health care providers' side because the providers who staff those clinics can bill Medicaid or families’ insurance for the care. He said schools in Toledo have already seen great success with a similar program.
Gordon said the health initiative is leveraging other investments the district has already made and partnerships it has with community agencies (40 alone were listed in the executive summary of the request to council). CMSD last year announced it had hired a full-time nurse for each school building, along with a counselor in each building and partnered with local agencies to provide access to psychologists for all students.
"Research shows the benefits of school-based health care to promote academic success, quality of life, and equity, including boosting school attendance and decreasing disciplinary actions, increasing access to affordable, ongoing health insurance, and creating a more positive school culture that fosters learning," the executive summary reads. "Proven interventions like school-based healthcare are desperately needed to reverse the dramatic impact of COVID-19 on school attendance and student stress levels, challenges that can impact graduation rates and subsequent employability."
The clinics will be open during the summer months, Gordon said.