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Hawaii K-12 Schools to Implement Telehealth Statewide

A partnership between the Hawaii Department of Education and telehealth company Hazel will afford counseling and mental health services for K-12 students across the state’s 295 public schools, at no cost to families.

A patient and a doctor participating in a telehealth visit.
The use of electronic devices in patient care, known as telehealth, has long held promise as the next big thing in the industry, but not until the coronavirus hit, raising a host of safety concerns, did it become commonplace.
(Antonio Perez/Chicago Tribune)
The Hawaii Department of Education has partnered with Hazel Health to provide telehealth services for free to the more than 170,000 students in the state’s 295 schools.

In a joint news release today, HIDOE said it would funnel nearly $4 million over the next three years into the program, which was officially launched this spring, to support Hazel’s platform. Within the tool, students at public schools can connect with the company’s multilingual licensed therapists and receive assessments, with sessions that can take place in school or at the student’s home. In certain cases, students will receive short-term counseling through video visits, while others could receive long-term care, with staff at Hazel working with families and local providers to connect students to the appropriate care, the release said.

“The combination of school and community-based resources will increase access to affordable mental health services for all of our students and families, ensuring that every child has access to the services and care that they need,” HIDOE Deputy Superintendent Heidi Armstrong said in a public statement.

The news release said the state’s partnership builds on efforts to improve access to behavioral and mental health services. HIDOE cited provider shortages, lack of insurance coverage for mental health services and long wait lines as reasons for ushering in the partnership, referencing a report from the nonprofit Mental Health America this year that said 71 percent of Hawaii’s youth who experienced a major depressive episode have gone untreated. The partnership is aimed at making mental health services more complete and accessible to families with limited time or resources, the release said.

“This partnership strengthens our commitment to care for the social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health needs of all students,” Armstrong said.

Hazel’s Chief Innovation Officer Andrew Post said in a public statement that the company was created to make mental health care more accessible to children.

“Hazel will help to streamline the identification, treatment, and ongoing support for students’ mental health concerns, paving a path to improved academic outcomes and social-emotional development,” he said.

HIDOE said in the release that designing a sustainable telehealth program has involved gathering support from other entities, including the state of Hawaii Department of Human Services and several health plan partners, including Ohana Health Plan, Hawai'i Medical Service Association (HMSA), Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc., United Healthcare and AlohaCare.

Telehealth programs have become increasingly common options for student care in states such as Georgia, Missouri and Virginia, where schools are trying to make services more readily available while cutting down on student absences.

The California-based Hazel has raised over $33 million in investment rounds since 2020, according to Crunchbase, and says it serves over 2 million students across the U.S. The partnership with Hawaii is the company’s second announced this week, after it announced Monday that it’s working with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Houston area.