HHS site visit draws solid response

By Submitted, 04/25/18 8:16 AM

HOPE – Students, parents and patrons of the Hope Public School District turned out in numbers Monday for a public hearing to offer support for a proposed school-based health center planned for the Hope High School campus.
The hearing on the proposal coincided with a site visit by a team from the Arkansas Department of Health and Arkansas Department of Education that will make a recommendation on the grant application for a $500,000 grant from the state to fund renovations and initial operations of the proposed health center in the former family and consumer sciences “cottage” on the HHS campus.
A determination on the grant application is expected by mid-May, according to information developed during the Monday visit.
Some 150 parents, students, and district stakeholders attended to make the case for the proposed grant and health center, emphasizing the underlying concern that Hope residents have for children in the community.
“We have people in this audience from all walks of life who have skipped their lunch hour to be here to support the school-based health center,” Zone 8 Hope School Board Representative David “Bubba” Powers said.
Powers, a former juvenile intake officer and former state representative, said the concept has been needed for a number of years.
“This facility will take us to the level where we needed to be when I was in the Legislature,” he said. “I worked toward the idea for years in the Legislature.”
The correlation between student health and academic success was pointed out by HHS student Allysa Fincher.
“They don’t have to have their parents take them to Texarkana or somewhere to see the doctor, and take them away from class,” Fincher said.
That idea was also emphasized from the parental perspective by Hope Mayor Steve Montgomery.
“We have a manufacturing economy; and, a lot of people are employed by Tyson and other companies who have to take time away from work to take a child to the doctor,” Montgomery said.
That point was emphasized by University of Arkansas-Hope Chancellor Chris Thomason, a former state legislator, who said healthcare is a vital concern to Hope residents.
“We are one of the few communities in rural Arkansas to have saved our local hospital by working together,” Thomason said.
He said the innovation which the school-based health center represents reflects a similar commitment.
“And, as chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Hope, I can assure you that we will be one hundred percent in support of this effort,” Thomason said.
Asked why the Hope High School campus was selected for the district’s proposal, District Nurse Renee Sells, RN, said it was the logical place to begin what is anticipated to become a service to all five campuses.
“We did surveys, and Hope High School had the greatest need,” Sells said. “We’re going to start there, and hope to serve all the campuses.”
After the main session in the HHS auditorium, the team invited attendees to participate in “breakout” sessions which dealt with specific physical and behavioral health requirements, as well as administrative responsibilities proposed under the grant. The two-hour session concluded with a tour of the former consumer and family sciences “cottage” where team members got a first-hand look at the space which is to be converted to health center use.
Hope Superintendent Bobby Hart said he was pleased with the support shown.
“The Hope Public Schools thanks all who attended and supported our school-based health center site visit,” Hart said. “The site visit team was amazed by the public turnout and the quality of the comments. I am reminded of what a great community we live in during events such as this.”
Hart said the successful site session lends positive support to the grant application.
“We are extremely optimistic about our grant being approved and this center becoming a reality,” he said.
Hart thanked the HPSD team that worked on the proposal for the past two years.
“I want to especially thank Mrs. Portia Jones for her leadership and hard work, as well as our entire nursing staff, Renee Sells, Marcia Wiesel, Geri Maxfield, Glenda Newton, Mrs. Gretchen Carlton from the HHS staff, and Mrs. Mary Beth Fincher,” he said. “Mr. Hoglund and his staff, and so many others, have contributed thus far and will continue to work to improve outcomes and the lives of all of our students.”
Hart said the HPSD remains committed to Hope’s future.
“Our system is improving and making our town stronger,” he said. “Thanks, again, to all of our community partners.”
A decision concerning the grant proposal is expected by mid-May.
“Applications for new sites were scored by an outside review group and the top scored districts receive visits from the state team,” Danna Shaffer, BSN, RN, school-based health center advisor for the Arkansas Department, Office of Health School Health Services, said.
The Hope site evaluation was the third of four the team is to complete, Shaffer said.
“Upon completion of our final site visit, our team will convene to submit our recommendations and visit findings to the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) leadership for further review and/or approval,” she said. “With that being said, it is expected to still take several more weeks before the Arkansas Department of Education, Office of School Health Services, will announce award recipients.”
The district is currently seeking a $500,000 grant from the state through the ADE that will open and establish operations for the proposed clinic for its first five years of service. Funding for such clinics has been created through a $2 million annual set-aside of tobacco excise tax monies collected by the state.
Renovations to the “cottage” will be undertaken with the first $150,000 of the proposed grant; while, much of the furnishings and equipment needed for initial operations have been donated by Wadley Regional Medical Center-Hope.
Hart has said the HPSD is committed to sustaining the operations of the clinic after the five year grant period.