NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County Board of Education received an update Monday on the operations of two school-based health centers in the county, with some members indicating 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 campus of Weir High School and Weir Middle Schools.
“For the last six years we have grown steadily,” Mowry reported.
The school-based health centers fall under the umbrella of CHANGE’s family medical care programs, with the agency operating 13 such centers in the Tri-State Area.
In the Hancock County Schools system, CHANGE began at Weirton Elementary School and served 462 students in 2017. The Weir Complex School-Based Health Center opened in 2019, at which time a total of 901 students were provided care, with 685 at Weirton Elementary and 216 at 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 with 436 at Weirton Elementary and 481 at the Weir campus .
Among the services provided, Mowry noted, there were 156 students with a diagnosis of a chronic illness, 113 administered immunizations with the exception of the COVID vaccine, 447 with a behavioral health diagnosis, and 35 receiving dental checkups. is provided.
“We are currently only open at Weirton Elementary for dentistry,” Mowry noted.
Of those students who provided services this year, 27 are under the age of 5; 328 are between 5 and 10 years old; 352 between 11 and 16; and 210 over the age of 17. Mowry noted that 12 percent live at or below the poverty level, with 8.7 percent uninsured; 47 percent covered by Medicaid and 43 percent covered under private insurance.
In addition, the centers serve approximately 75 students per year through a backpack food distribution program; provided 142 free sports practices; 472 free COVID tests; and 54 free COVID vaccines. The high school has begun operating a store-style food pantry, and students are also provided with educational and hygiene supplies.
Councilman Larry Shaw asked if CHANGE receives any federal funds, or if it requires them to follow any specific mandates from the federal government. Mowry noted that some federal funds support select programs, with many of their services 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-based health center program to other schools in Hancock County, saying he knew funding had been available before.
“I think that funding is gone,” he added.
Mowry noted that some of those funds provided by the CARES Act are no longer available, and funding that is available will not allow construction of new facilities.
“We can furnish the space and we can operate the space,” she said.
Mowry noted in addition to Hancock County, CHANGE also operates school-based health centers in Brooke and Jefferson counties.