By Ruth Cummins
Students enrolled in Mississippi’s 138 school districts can get care during the summer holidays for minor illness and injury during virtual visits with caregivers in the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
The free summer program that debuts June 1 is open to public school students. About 440,000 students in grades kindergarten through 12 could potentially benefit.
In an extension of its partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education, the Center for Telehealth has been offering both minor medical care and behavioral health care facilitated by school nurses and counselors in 67 school districts, or a total 382 schools to students at their schools, in a phased implementation since August 2022.
“We are excited to be able to continue our services through the summer months to students enrolled in Mississippi public schools, thanks to a grant from the Mississippi Department of Education,” said Christina Wright, director of school-based telehealth at the Center for Telehealth.
“Our school-based telehealth program has been so well received across the state,” Wright said. “During the summer, some students still need the access or the convenience that our telehealth services can offer them, and we will be there for them.”
Minor medical care is available from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. seven days a week, and behavioral health care is available from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Children can see a caregiver by appointment only for a variety of minor medical issues and illnesses including flu and stomach bugs, rashes and skin irritations, insect bites and head lice, coughs and colds, asthma and allergies, pink eye, headaches, sore throat and fever. They also can see a licensed counselor for mental health challenges including anxiety and depression.
“The Mississippi Department of Education’s partnership with UMMC to provide all public-school children with easy access to basic medical care extends beyond the regular academic school year,” said Mike Kent, interim state superintendent of education. “Good health is a fundamental part of a child’s well-being.”
The summer program is an expanded version of the school-based telehealth program currently offered during the regular academic year in 66 of the state’s school districts. “Those parents and guardians will be able to set their children up for care from the same great providers who have been treating their students during the school year,” Wright said.
Through those 67 districts, 174,401 combined students benefit from the program during the regular school year.
A summer visit involves a few easy steps:
- A parent or guardian sets up a minor medical or behavioral health visit with a UMMC provider by going to umc.edu/k12. All video visits require the consent of a parent or guardian. Tip sheets and help documents will be available on the umc.edu/k12 website. If more help is needed in scheduling a visit, parents or guardians can call (601) 815-2020.
- The student and provider will see each other, talk and share information. The parent or guardian must be present at the visit.
- The provider will recommend treatment, or make a referral to another provider if needed.
Experienced behavioral health specialists will provide care, in non-crisis situations, for anxiety, depression, behavioral difficulties, coping skills, trouble expressing feelings and more. “If your child is at risk of harming themselves or others, please call 911,” Wright said.
Although there’s no cost for a video visit for students enrolled in Mississippi public schools. any costs for prescriptions and follow-up visits with primary care physicians or specialists are the responsibility of the parent or guardian, Wright said.
The program is available to all children in Mississippi, but families outside the state’s public school system may be charged for the telehealth visit.