Santa Rosa County McKinney-Vento Program First of Its Kind in Country

Submitted By

Debbie Price, RN
Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County, Florida
February 6, 2015

In 2013, the school district and the health department in Santa Rosa County collaborated to secure a grant under the McKinney-Vento (MCV) Act that would fund case management efforts for the district's homeless and disadvantaged youth and their families. It was the first program of its kind in the country.

The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County employs seven school nurses. Of the 33 schools they serve, 18 have an increased proportion of students that are identified as "disadvantaged" based on criteria such as loss of housing and economic hardship. They may be sharing housing with other persons; living in motels, hotels, campgrounds, or emergency/transitional shelters; have been abandoned; or are awaiting placement in foster care. The most critical are unaccompanied youth with little support. These students require not only housing but health care, dental care, and basic necessities such as clothing.

The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County School Health Program partnered with the School District of Santa Rosa to develop a new, innovative approach to providing health services to the county's homeless and disadvantaged students. The program is called the McKinney-Vento (MCV) Program. The McKinney-Vento Act-Title X, Part C of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act defines the legal rights and definition of a homeless or unaccompanied youth. The school nursing team integrates MCV student services into the routine school health services program as well as through mandated screening services. The nursing program specialist provides program development, program management, supervision of staff, and program evaluation. The grant that made it possible to implement the program in the Santa Rosa County School District was secured through a collaborative effort involving the health department and the school district's federal programs office. This program uses a collaborative approach in providing services and aligns with the access to care issue identified in the county's community health improvement plan.

The program uses a community health approach to case manage and provide direct health care and appropriate referrals. Medical services are provided by community partners that include the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) and local physicians. School nurses also work closely with the schools' MCV liaisons to help provide clothes, coats, shoes, and other personal care items. They work with the school district's social workers to assist students and families that are uninsured in applying for health insurance coverage. There have been many successes, including a student with poorly controlled diabetes who was on the brink of being retained, and in danger of being removed from his family's custody, due to excessive absences from repeated hospitalizations. Because of the relationship that developed through the MCV program with the nurse case manager, the student achieved better control of his diabetes, did well in Summer school, remained with his family, and advanced to middle school.

Seeking to fill a need, we were willing to look outside the box to develop a collaborative approach utilizing community partnerships. Santa Rosa County was the first district to put this program into practice and the impact has been significant. MCV is also working on a collaborative agreement with a FQHC to provide dental and medical vans on school campuses. This new component will further reduce the health disparities of this population, improve academic performance, and promote families’ resiliency.

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