Students K-12 in the San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) have easy and immediate access to health care with the implementation of Hazel Health at the onset of the 2018-2019 school year at nine school sites. Hazel Health, based in San Francisco, is an innovative model that offers students a virtual health clinic through an iPad that connects them to health care providers who assess them in a matter of minutes – regardless of insurance or immigration status.
According to Hazel Health CEO Josh Golomb, 90% of students return to class, contributing to a 40% drop in health related absenteeism.
Dr. Lorraine Perez, SBCUSD assistant superintendent of Student Services, noted that Muscoy Elementary and Sierra High schools in particular have seen significant improvement in attendance as a result of the program’s implementation.
“Working with Hazel is part of our commitment to provide access to services,” Perez said, and added that the program is intended to assist school nurses. “This is not to undermine or replace school nurses, but provide support to school nurses.”
Sharon Lip, school nurse at Muscoy Elementary and three other school sites, noted a key benefit of the program is saving parents a trip to the doctor’s office for minor illnesses.
“If a child has pink eye, for example, a Hazel doctor can prescribe antibiotics immediately,” Lip said. “Hazel also provides over the counter medication like Tylenol and Motrin which we can administer and the child can stay at school.”
Hazel Health has served over 15,000 students in California, Nevada and Arizona since it began operations in January of 2017. San Bernardino City Unified is the first school district in Southern California and Hazel Health’s largest partner.
“We find visionary leadership willing to try new things to support kids,” Golomb said about approaching SBCUSD. “(The school district) has a fantastic team that’s already doing so much to help its students. We hope to show how much impact we can make on this community.”
According to Perez the program is congruent with the district’s first strategy listed in its Community Engagement Plan 2.0 – Health, Wellness, and Safety.
“This effort is very much aligned with the school board which has rallied around to support the health and environment on campus; it adds so much value,” Perez remarked.
Hazel Health selects communities with high Medicaid and poverty rates, communities where Golomb hopes to have a significant impact. According to Golomb, the goal is to connect children and their families to local doctors, which in turn provides access to preventive care.
“We’re always looking for new ways of bringing health care to the underserved,” Golomb said about his model that identifies health issues, writes prescriptions, provides triage and more. “Health care is more expensive in this country because there’s no easy access to preventive care, that leads to chronic disease which drives the cost up. There’s no better place to start than with kids.”
Hazel Health school sites:
Arrowview Middle School
Del Rosa Elementary
Del Vallejo Middle School
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School
Lincoln Elementary School
Pacific High School
Riley College Prep Academy
Sierra High School San Bernardino High School