After years of advocacy and navigating delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, St. Mary’s County Health Department in partnership with St. Mary’s County Public Schools proudly opened the first two school-based health centers in Southern Maryland with the 2022-2023 school year. An initiative of the St. Mary’s County Equity Task Force, a joint collaboration of St. Mary’s County Health Department, St. Mary’s County Public Schools, and St. Mary’s County Sheriff’s Office, in recognition of the need to collaborate across sectors to better address equity. These two SBHCs are in areas of the county known to have a shortage of primary care and mental health providers. These on-campus clinics, which operate Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., are each staffed with a full-time family nurse practitioner and clinical support staff and have a shared nutritionist. Through these SBHCs, students and staff are able to receive care for illness, chronic disease management, sports physicals, nutrition counseling, onsite lab collection and diagnostic testing, immunizations, and coordination of care with other community providers.
As Maryland saw an earlier and stronger than usual flu and RSV season this fall, the SBHCs became the first call the school nurses would make when a sick child presented to the nurse’s office. With the capacity to provide walk-in appointments and rapid Covid/Flu/RSV/Strep PCR testing and treatment, this allowed students to be evaluated and connected to treatment as efficiently as possible, with the goal to decrease time away from the classroom. In the short 5 months since opening, the impact of SBHCs has been acknowledged by many parents and staff who are so grateful for the opportunity to have this new convenient, barrier-free access to care that can all be started while parents are able to remain at work and in regular communication with the care team and their child.
Since opening the SBHC teams have enrolled 140 students and staff and provided over 300 visits. The SBHCs have also been active supporting Covid Immunization efforts, hosting 56 immunization clinics and vaccinating just under 500 people.
Lisa Nelson, RN
Director of Nursing
Director, Division of Clinical Services