Tulare schools go from online learning to online healthcare

Tulare Joint Union High School District offers Hazel Health to students to provide support for parents with sick children at home, and school staff as the number of students continues to increase

TULARE – For the first time, the Tulare Joint Union High School District will be offering a supplemental telehealth service for students. The service will address students’ physical and mental health needs.

As schools continue to grow it requires all hands on deck. By implementing Hazel Health, a telehealth service, it not only offers the opportunity for district staff to have additional support, but also provides support for parents at home with sick children. Services provided by Hazel Health are free to its users, all that is required is that parents sign a consent form and adult supervision. The services allow students to access immediate help when they need it.

“[Hazel Health] is an additional supplemental service we’re providing for our students, because we’re seeing a lot of social emotional learning problems in school right now,” Dereck Domingues, director of child welfare and safety said. “We want to provide that additional service for them, just because there’s nothing wrong with having too many services provided for students.”

According to Domingues, the Tulare Joint Union High School District (TUJHSD) is one of the first school districts in Tulare County to implement these services, alongside Porterville Unified. Services provided by Hazel Health will be available to students 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. 365 days a year. Hazel Health services are not in place of any district staff, it is only a supplemental program to help staff during busy times. The telehealth service allows students to receive help faster if the designated nurse is busy with a student who requires immediate assistance. 

Domingues said more importantly, services provided through Hazel Health provide support for parents who are home with sick children and may not know what to do. 

“I think we’re gonna see benefits from after school hours when students get sick,” Domingues said. “Because a lot of times, students leave home and they might not be feeling well and then the parents really don’t know what to do.”

Tulare schools have not gone live with Hazel Health yet because there are still some kinks being ironed out. According to Domingues, one large speed bump will be getting parents to return permission slips. Without parent permission, students are only allowed one emergency call with a Hazel Health specialist without a parent’s signature. 

Bethanie Covert, school psychologist at Mission Oak, is new to the Tulare district from Porterville Unified. Porterville had implemented Hazel Health last year and Covert confirmed that last school year one roadblock was in fact getting the consent forms back from parents. Domingues said the goal is to have each student return a consent form even if there is not an apparent need for it. Once students begin turning in their consent forms, Hazel Health services will become live. 

The district will be doing a week-long awareness program starting on Sept. 6  for those who have students in any TJUSHD school. The program will educate parents on Hazel Health and its benefits. There is no cost to the student or parent and consultants on the physical health side are able to prescribe over the counter medications for students. 

“One of the benefits for the physical health part, is the Hazel health provider can recommend over the counter products like Pepto Bismol, other types of antacids, anything that you can get in and we have a medicine cabinet that they sent us,” Domingues said. 

Covert said before, schools were unable to prescribe even that level of medication. However, doctors on Hazel Health do have the ability to prescribe medications of a larger magnitude to sick children at home, the only difference is that will be at the cost of the parent. 

Hazel Health services are provided via iPad according to Domingues. There will be an iPad for both the school nurse’s office as well as the psychologist’s office. Students should always be in earshot of an adult when on the Hazel Health app. Covert said an additional challenge for the district could be space as the district continues to grow. 

The mental health side of Hazel Health is beneficial for some students who need to talk to someone, but don’t feel comfortable talking to someone who might know their backstory. 

“Sometimes students are not comfortable sharing their personal issues with people they’re familiar with,” Domingues said. “So they actually feel a little bit more comfortable sharing that information with a professional stranger.”

According to the Hazel Health website, the company helps over two million students throughout grades K-12. The website states “delivered in conjunction with the urgent care model, the mental health service creates a single entry point to comprehensive health care.”

Hazel Health will be available to the six schools that house high school students in Tulare. The program is not in place of, but simply to add support to the already existing staff.

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