One of the psychology theories that all educators study in college is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Simply stated for an educational setting, Maslow’s theory means that students need to have their basic physiological needs -- like food, water, and sleep, -- met before they can achieve their full potential in the classroom.
“All educators will tell you that you can’t get to academic achievement if a student’s basic needs are not being fulfilled,” Superintendent Dan Coffman said.
For example, if a person is extremely hungry, it is hard to focus on anything else besides food.
And that is the motivation behind a new partnership between Cambridge City School District and Muskingum Valley Health Center that will provide Cambridge School students access to primary health and dental services to which they may not otherwise have access.
“A kid who is sick or has an abscessed tooth who is sitting in a classroom isn’t going to be able to grow academically when they are focused on trying to get healthy,” Coffman said. “It’s the same thing when they are hungry which is why we put such an emphasis on providing as many meals as we can each day, seven days per week. It all works together to meet the basic needs so we can then begin to focus on academic growth – which, in the end, is our mission.”
The Muskingum Valley Health Center’s new facility in Cambridge is less than 1.5 miles from all Cambridge Schools.
The partnership with MVHC will provide health and dental care for Cambridge students.
“We have kids that we know are not able to access primary health care and primary dental care for a variety of reasons,” Coffman said. “We have many quality pediatricians in the area that many of our kids do go to, but we have a lot of kids that just don’t have access to that care.”
This partnership will enable Cambridge Schools and MVHC provide access to health care services for students so they can focus on learning.
“We are super excited to be partnering with Cambridge City School District,” said MVHC Chief Executive Officer Dan Atkinson. “This will be a beneficial service to the student body and, of course, staff can utilize our services as well. We will do anything to keep people healthy and keep students learning, that is the objective here.”
With both partners pursuing similar goals, the partnership was pretty much a no-brainer.
“We came to Guernsey County in 2015 because data indicated that there was a need for primary care providers based on the population,” Atkinson said. “It quickly became clear that there was a need to increase access, especially to the underserved population - patients that are uninsured or on Medicaid.
“We also knew from working with other health care providers in the community that there was a need,” Atkinson continued. “At the time, we worked with Ray Chorey at Southeastern Med who saw the value that MVHC brought to the community.”
According to Atkinson, close to 1,000 patients from Guernsey County were utilizing dental services in Muskingum County and many patients were traveling to Muskingum for other services as well.
Conversations with Superintendent Coffman and experience from working with other school districts in Muskingum and Guernsey counties, emphasized the need for services besides primary care.
“When we started reaching out to the district, they shared with us the need not only for medical services, but also for dental and behavioral health services,” Atkinson said. “We learned that students are not getting medications they need because there is barrier there that doesn’t allow them to get maintenance medications on the regular basis.”MVHC's new facility in Cambridge features dental stations.
Muskingum Valley Health Center’s new 50,000 square-foot facility in Cambridge -- which includes dental, behavioral health, OB/GYN and pharmacy services in addition to primary and pediatric care services -- will help meet the needs of the community.
“Most of the time, we rely on our parents to make sure our students get the care they need, but we know there are gaps,” Coffman said. “MVHC has committed to provide all of those services to our kids.”
The biggest benefit of the partnership for the district is access to care for students no matter what the circumstances.
“Our main objective as a healthcare center is to remove barriers,” Atkinson said. “If students are struggling to get access, we are going to try and remove those barriers for them, even if it is financial.”
MVHC bills all insurances and works with Medicaid. Out of pocket costs and copays are billed on the back end and patients can qualify for a lesser payment based on an income-based sliding scale. MVHC will also work with patients to establish affordable payment plans.
“Just because you have insurance doesn’t mean you can afford health care,” Atkinson said. “There are a lot of out-of-pocket components. We are never going to keep a student from coming back because there is an outstanding balance.”
MVHC also has a Patient Care Charitable Fund supported by private donors that is used to cover gaps. Because of the nature of the fund, MVHC can provide support to a higher percentage of the Federal Poverty level than the Federal Qualified Health Center Program would normally allow.
“We see all patients regardless of their ability to pay, that is key piece of what we do,” Atkinson reinforced.
The School District will do what they can to help facilitate access to health services, too, Coffman promised.
“Parents will still have to go through all the paperwork and process but that is where we, as a district, may be able to be an asset to the families,” Coffman said. “We want to partner with the parents to get the kids connected with the services.”
If a student demonstrates a need, the school nurse can contact the pediatric department, -- in consultation with the parents – to schedule an appointment, usually for the same day. Parents can meet their student at MVHC or pick them up at the school and transport their student themselves.
Once at the facility, again, with proper authorization from the parents, students will wait in a dedicated waiting room behind secure doors before seeing a medical professional.A dedicated waiting room behind secure doors will allow students to wait for appointments in a safe environment.
If a parent is unable to make the appointment, nurses will follow up with them so that all the appropriate info will get back to them. If there is a prescription that needs to be filled, MVHC can have that medicine delivered to the students’ residence.
“We can’t always rely on parents to get kids to and from appointments for a variety of reasons,” Coffman said. “But a kid who is sick or has an abscessed tooth isn’t going to be able to grow academically when they are sitting in a classroom focused on pain.
“This partnership, with proper permissions from the parents, allow us to transport students to the new MVHC facility to obtain services,” Coffman continued.
During the day, unfortunately, parents are not always available to get students to and from appointments. So, with a substantial $15,000 donation from MVHC, the district will purchase a van that will be dedicated to transporting students to the MVHC facility for services.
“We appreciate the commitment of MVHC to this partnership,” Coffman said. “Transportation to health care providers can be a barrier for some families, and we, the schools and MVHC, want to help remove that barrier.”
The district also will invest minimal funding for training of some staff members at each building and incur some costs for drivers to transport students to MVHC. Coffman pointed out that this is good use of Health and Wellness funds form the State. He noted those funds have been preserved in the recently proposed state operating budget for fiscal years 2022 and 2023.
“The new budget indicates there will be a continued commitment to health and wellness,” Coffman said. “Because this is a community partnership, we will be able to use these funds.”
According to Atkinson, the overall goal of MVHC is to improve the overall health of the community. He points out that healthcare for newborns through age 5 is fairly good due to required immunizations and regular checkups. But after age 5, healthcare starts to drop off and by the time children are teenagers, they only access healthcare when they are sick.
“This partnership gives us an opportunity to get students into our facility and talk to them about eating healthy and exercising and how that benefits them in the long term,” Atkinson said. “The more students we get into our facility, the more impact we can have on them long term. That should ultimately keep them healthier longer, minimize chronic diseases and allow us to be proactive in managing those chronic diseases.”
So, similar to a school district, teaching students beneficial behaviors at a young age will help them establish and continue good habits as they grow older.
“At the end of the day, this partnership means that healthcare is available to and accessible by our students and their families,” Coffman said. “It is going to cost our families almost nothing, and it’s going to cost our school district little to nothing. However, the investment we do make benefits our students.”
Benefits in terms of health and academic growth.