One anxious mom appreciated that a new initiative, Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds (HKHM), was located in her child’s school when a medical emergency occurred.
While playing at recess, Devonté Banks, a second-grader at Lexington Elementary School, experienced breathing problems and went to the HKHM office for help. HKHM school nurse Kirsten Wilford was there to address the acute asthma exacerbation problem, immediately. HKHM asserts that to educate children, a healthy mind and a healthy body are essential. Children with unmet mental and/or physical health needs have a difficult time engaging in the educational process.
The Child Health Advocacy and Outreach department launched HKHM during the 2017 school year, with funding from BJC Healthcare. The program places full-time school nurses, as well as mental health professionals, in four Saint Louis Public Schools. It increases the school system’s nursing staff and provides convenient health care support to students, families and faculty. Through HKHM, the student’s physical and psychological needs are met. Nurses address physical needs and the mental health care providers consult with staff and parents on the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students.
“I was definitely relieved that she was there,” says mom Dana Johnson, who works as the school’s secretary. Wilford treated Devonté’s asthma, but the symptoms were not abating. “I was a nervous wreck,” mom continued. “That was a scary event for me. It’s never been at that magnitude.”
Also working in Devonté’s favor was that a St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Kids Express pediatric mobile health van happened to be on site. Devonté’s symptoms were assessed and addressed on the HKE van. “Miss Lisa (Heithaus) was a doll with everything she needed to do. She hooked him up on oxygen and everything.”
Because of Devonté’s persistent symptoms, he was transported to the hospital where he stayed in the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) for three days. “I didn’t have to worry about red tape,” says mom. Devonté entered the hospital with a complete description of his condition that was provided by the HKHM and HKE teams.
Devonté is currently in the third grade at Lexington. His mom is still the school’s secretary. They are both comforted knowing that the HKHM program is there as well. They feel assured that HKHM is there to address any physical or mental health needs, so that learning is the most important event of the school day.
In its first year, Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds reports averaging 30 clinic visits each school day. Its mental health providers offer staff members training on trauma informed strategies and consult with staff and parents on the social, emotional and behavioral needs of students.
Healthy Kids Express vans provide dental, asthma and health care screenings for about 20,000 underserved children and teens annually.
Both programs are offered through St. Louis Children’s Hospital’s Child Health Advocacy and Outreach department. The department provides health-related resources and education to families and communities in the St. Louis region to help keep them healthy and safe.