Public school students in Prince George's County, Maryland, will soon have access to telehealth care providers at no cost to them or their families.
Starting in October, students can see a doctor, get a prescription or speak to a therapist via Hazel Health, the country's largest provider of telehealth for children.
"We want our kids … to be healthy and be academically successful, so in order to do that, we have to provide these services for our kids," said Dr. Traci Jones, health services specialist for Prince George's County Public Schools.
The free services will be available Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
"If a child is having a mental health crisis, parents can log on as long as they have a phone, a laptop, a tablet, any way that they can get to the internet that has a camera to it, they can access Hazel," Jones said.
The school system will begin utilizing Hazel at 63 schools in October, first at middle schools, academies and high schools. Once the program is underway, the service will expand to elementary schools. Therapy telehealth services will start by early November, officials said.
Hazel will provide a supply of over-the-counter pain relievers and other medicines that can be prescribed to students suffering from common complaints like headaches and sore throats. Providers can also make a diagnosis and write prescriptions.
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Dr. Travis Gayles, the former health officer for Montgomery County, Maryland, now works for Hazel Health.
"We’ve seen over 90 percent of children return back to the classroom within a short period of time. That cuts down on missed time from the classroom, which can influence academic performance," Gayles said.
Gayles said it will also help parents who don’t have health insurance or can’t take off work to take their child to a doctor.
Parents will need to sign a consent form to enroll their children.
Hazel provides access to care for more than two million students nationwide.
The program is being funded by a $4 million federal grant the Prince George's County Health Department secured.