Telemedicine program in St. Martin Parish aims at getting students who are ill back behind their desks more quickly _lowres


By November, students on St. Martin Parish School System’s most remote campus will be connected to health services as part of a telemedicine program planned at Stephensville Elementary.

Bluetooth-enabled medical equipment, software and Web cameras will help bridge the 62-mile gap between ill students who attend the lower St. Martin Parish school by connecting them to a nurse practitioner at the school-based health center at St. Martinville Senior High.

The St. Martin Parish School System operates three school-based health centers, in Cecilia, Breaux Bridge and St. Martinville, to provide health and mental health services to students during the school day. The health centers are housed on school campuses, and those students who attend other schools get a bus ride to their closest school-based health center. That accommodation is available to all students — except those in Stephensville, which is more than an hour’s drive from the closest school-based health center, in St. Martinville. Health center staff visit Stephensville Elementary about twice a month, which is not as effective, said Adrienne Huval, St. Martin Parish school health and nurse coordinator.

The school system has posted an ad for a registered nurse to work at Stephensville, Huval said.

“We’ll have (the nurse) there 20 hours a week, and they’ll have more time available to them to see a provider,” Huval said. “We hope first to reduce absenteeism and provide health care to students there that we currently give to our other schools.”

School officials and supporters, which include the United Way of Acadiana and Lafayette General Health Foundation, had hoped the service could launch in time for the start of the school year, but more time was needed to seek additional funding to hire a nurse to operate the equipment and serve as a real-life link between the patient and a nurse practitioner at the St. Martinville school-based health center.

A $55,000 grant from the United Way of Acadiana, which included $15,000 raised by Lafayette General Health employees specifically for the telemedicine project, helped fund the effort. Capital One stepped in with a $10,000 donation, said Cian Robinson, executive director of the Lafayette General Foundation.

The launch of a telemedicine program is part of an ongoing initiative of the Lafayette General Health Foundation, which helped the Lafayette Parish School System begin telemedicine services to rural schools in the Carencro area. Lafayette’s telemedicine program started last school year at Ossun Elementary, with the technology connecting students to a pediatrician and staff at the Carencro Middle school-based health center. This school year, the Carencro Middle school-based health center will also serve Live Oak and Carencro Heights elementary schools and Carencro High School through the expansion of the telemedicine program in that area.

And this school year, Robinson said, the foundation is focused on setting up a telemedicine initiative for students in Acadia Parish.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.