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Mississippi Dept. of Ed Offers Summer Telehealth Services

A partnership with the University of Mississippi Medical Center allows 440,000 K-12 students to get medical attention online for minor illnesses or mental health issues while public schools are out of session.

K-12 students in all of Mississippi’s 138 public school districts will get free health care via telemedicine technology during the summer break under a recent partnership between the state Department of Education and University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Medical caregivers in the university’s Center for Telehealth are available by appointment for 12 hours a day, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., seven days a week. They can provide treatment for a variety of minor medical issues, including fever, flu, coughs and colds, insect bites and rashes, asthma and allergies, head lice, pink eye, sore throat and headaches. Additionally, licensed mental health counselors are available from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Monday through Friday to provide psychological care, according to a May 23 news release issued by the Department of Education.

The service debuted June 1 and continues until summer break ends in August, on dates that vary by district. The program benefits about 440,000 students, according to the news release.

Department spokeswoman Jean Cook told Government Technology during an interview Thursday that a federal COVID-19 relief grant funded this program. It began in August 2022 with year-round telemedicine coverage for students in 67 districts, and at the beginning of this month was expanded to include summer coverage for students in all 138 districts. When school resumes in August, the coverage will be limited again to the 67 districts under the current funding plan, “but more may be coming on board,” Cook said.

The funding runs out in September 2024. Cook said state education officials will brainstorm ideas to keep the telemedicine program going after that.

Interim State Superintendent Mike Kent applauded the partnership.

“Good health is a fundamental part of a child’s well-being,” he said in a public statement.

According to the news release, the service gives parents or guardians, whose consent is required, access to the website to schedule video appointments. The site provides further technical guidance, and there is also a phone number available for those who need additional assistance: 601-815-2020.

Web browsing devices equipped with cameras and microphones are required for these visits, and the parent or guardian must be present. During the visits, providers will recommend a course of treatment and/or make a referral to another provider should more specialized care be necessary.

Regarding behavioral care, the specialists can treat conditions like depression, anxiety, behavioral difficulties and emotional problems, but only in non-crisis situations. A 911 call is advised in situations where the child is at risk of harming others or themselves.

While the initial visits are free to students enrolled in Mississippi public schools, any costs for medications and follow-up visits with other providers are not covered by this program and would be the responsibility of parents or guardians, Christina Wright, director of school-based telehealth at the Center for Telehealth, said in the news release. She added that the summer services are available to all children in Mississippi, including those who are home-schooled or attend private schools, but those who are not in public schools would be billed for the visits.
Aaron Gifford has several years of professional writing experience, primarily with daily newspapers and specialty publications in upstate New York. He attended the University at Buffalo and is based in Cazenovia, NY.