Dayton Schools goes on the road to solve asthma problems for kids

Asthma is the No. 1 illness seen at Dayton Children’s Hospital.

When the young girl walked into Dayton Public Schools’ new mobile health RV on Tuesday outside Ruskin School, she had been out of her asthma medication for two weeks because the family was between doctors, creating a medical concern.

“I was able to prescribe the meds the child needed and we helped call to get her hooked up with a new primary care provider,” said Tiffany Brown, a nurse practitioner with Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton who helps lead DPS’ mobile unit. “The problem we’re trying to solve in general is kids having what they need at school, and knowing how to use it when something happens.”

Dayton schools' new mobile health unit goes on the road to 17 elementary schools, staffed by Brown and DPS school nurse Lisa Montgomery, with asthma treatment as the primary mission. Virginia Noe, DPS' director of health services, said the goal is for the unit to be in service three days a week, hitting each elementary school at least three times a year, with more visits to the schools with the worst asthma problems.

Noe said more than 800 elementary school students in the district (1 in 8) suffer from asthma. Asthma is the No. 1 reason kids are admitted to Dayton Children's Hospital, with almost 40 asthma-related emergency visits per day.

The RV is almost 20 years old, but was sidelined for years after a change in DPS health staffing and approach. It’s been renovated and refocused in a collaboration by DPS and Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton (CHCGD), with funding support from the CareSource Foundation.

Noe said the mobile unit can help students and families in many ways.

“If a child needs medication for school use, that can be prescribed on the mobile health unit. If they’re lacking their spacer, we can get that prescribed,” Noe said. “If they need referrals for a home assessment or to a pulmonologist we can make those sorts of referrals. For children who may not have insurance, we can refer them to a navigator so they can become enrolled.”

Noe said the convenience of the mobile unit is important for parents who don’t have transportation or have trouble getting time off work to take their child to the doctor. But she said the services are comprehensive, including communication with the child’s primary doctor on what mobile unit staff observed, and what services were provided.

The mobile unit helps DPS serve more students, but Montgomery said paperwork has been a challenge to growth. Because CHCGD is a federally qualified health care center, there is a 10-page document with health history and more that must be filled out to participate.

Montgomery said after sending documents home two different ways produced lukewarm response, she’s calling affected families and walking them through most of the forms on the phone, so their kids can be served.

Noe praised Montgomery's dedication and said DPS has trained more than 1,000 school employees on asthma protocols. This school year, 297 more DPS students have completed the Open Airways training program for managing their asthma.

“We want to reduce those ER visits and hospital admissions,” Noe said. “And healthy kids can learn better.”

Noe credited DPS leaders for their dedication to health issues, as the district has 25 full-time school nurses for 28 schools.

On Wednesday, the mobile unit was parked outside River’s Edge Montessori School, where Montgomery and Brown helped a girl with asthma. She had been a little uncertain when she came in, but by the end of the process, she was laughing with Brown and Montgomery, telling them how she plays basketball and showing off her muscles.

A smiling Brown gave her a high-five on the way out and told her to spread the word to her friends that the ladies in the RV were there to help.

“Tell them not to be scared. No shots here!” Brown said, as the girl waved and headed back to class.

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