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$500K grant secured to improve student health

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The Medicine and Education Group was one of 278 grant recipients across the country through the Affordable Care Act. Bone said a total of $95 million was awarded to various school-based health center programs nationwide.

The grant allows MEG to utilize the $500,000 at 10 schools in the county school system. Bone said the schools where they will start first are those in the eastern portion of the county and those where a healthcare safety net is needed.

“We’re starting with schools that have the most need,” Bone said. Those include Tuckers Crossroads Elementary School, Carroll-Oakland Elementary, Southside Elementary, Watertown Elementary, Lebanon High School and Watertown High School, with more to come.

Chuck Whitlock, Wilson County Schools health coordinator, worked with Bone to identify the schools that had the most need. Bone said they used information such as how many students are enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program, how many students live below the poverty line, those whose families have transportation difficulties and more.

The grant money will be used at those schools to update the  nurses’ existing equipment, which includes common medical items such as stethoscopes, blood pressure cups, thermometers and examination tables.

Bone said they will even use electronic medical records that can be easily transferred between doctors and the school nurse, as well as use what he called “telemedicine,” which uses video and photography equipment to allow a doctor to diagnose a student without the child having to go to the doctor’s office.

There are 18 Registered Nurses in the county school system who treat a wide range of illnesses and see students at their respective schools each day. Bone said they hope the grant will make their job easier and allow them to provide a greater level of care.

“They do an excellent job, and this will add to their equipment that they already have,” he said.

Bone is hoping to have school nurses work alongside Dr. Andrew Jordan, a pediatrician in Lebanon, to have someone nurses can refer children to if they need to see a specialist. They are also hoping to partner with the Walk-In Clinic on Baddour Parkway in Lebanon.

In addition to providing more care to students who become ill while at school, the grant hopes to provide a level of care that allows parents to avoid taking a day off of work to get their children to the doctor. Bone said the expanded care in schools will be able to treat students without their parents having to take a day off work, and the student from having to miss school.

By keeping kids in school, Bone said there could possibly be less absences and less revenue-loss by the county schools. He’s hoping the county schools will have more money to spend in other areas as a result.

“We hope the county (schools) will get more funds if we do a good job in using this equipment,” Bone said.

Bone was Lebanon’s first board-certified pediatrician in 1969 and has been looking for ways to keep children healthy for many years. The idea for the non-profit organization stemmed from his brother, former District 46 State Rep. Stratton Bone. He said the two brothers used to work together to find ways to better their community.

“He started us with other things and we evolved into this,” Bone said. “Healthy children are much better able to learn in school.”

Bone will have to present the grant award to the Wilson County Board of Education, which he hopes to do in August. The board will have to approve the grant before they can begin putting the money into the schools.

Bone and Whitlock will then work together with school nurses to assess their medical equipment and determine what they can replace or update at each school.

In the future, Bone said they hope to apply for the grant again and possibly work with the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital as well. If they can secure the grant again, he’s hoping to expand the number of schools they can reach.

“I’m sure we’ll learn a lot more as this unfolds,” he added.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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