The Baldwin County Board of Commissioners has unanimously agreed to become the financial agent for the local public school system’s Bee Well Clinic.
A grant totaling nearly $1 million is intended to help the clinic provide expanded community health care services.
Jonathan Jackson, executive director of the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority (DAMBC), explained that the Baldwin County Board of Commissioners and DAMBC met about a year ago to secure a telemedicine grant for the school board. of Baldwin County.
“We immediately saw that there was a big push and a big upside for us too in economic development to expand the reach of telehealth because a healthy student body and a healthy workforce [are] nothing but good economic development,” Jackson said at a recent county commission meeting. “We believe that education is synonymous with economic development, so of course we support this effort.”
Over the past few months, Jackson said he and other members of the community have been working to bring the right people to the right places to apply for the grant.
“It’s a one-time deal that means a lot of money, but also fruitful results of what the money is for,” Jackson said. “And so, we went down the road as if the Development Authority would be the property channel to deliver that money into.”
Jackson said it was later learned by Middle Georgia Regional Commission officials in Macon that if DAMBC were to continue with the grant and act as grant administrator, that as an entity, they would not be able to recover some costs.
“These are costs that, frankly, the Development Authority simply cannot absorb,” Jackson said. “Monitoring, auditing, and grant execution are costs that cannot be recovered from this particular grant.”
Jackson said when he learned a city or county government could be a candidate for the grant, he contacted the county and spoke with Baldwin County Deputy Manager Dawn Hudson.
“We believe in the project and we have empowered the (chair) of our board of directors to write a letter of support for this grant because we strongly believe in it,” Jackson said. “But we’re just not in a position to serve as an escrow agent, and that also means as a claimant.”
Jackson said that was what made him turn to county.
He said he was asking county commissioners to act as the grant applicant and administer the grant.
Dr Keith Thompson then addressed the county commissioners.
“It’s really a program that’s a successful extension of something we’ve been doing at Stone Mountain at the Med Cure Federally Qualified Health Center for about the last three years,” Thompson said.
The doctor said that when he and others heard about the wonderful things Baldwin County School District Superintendent Dr. Noris Price had done at the Bee Well Clinic in Milledgeville, he remembered she had told an inspiring story about a child who had an eye infection and was out of school for a week before he could get the medical attention he needed.
Thompson told the Stone Mountain Clinic they had the exact same problem.
“It is underserved patients who do not have access to specialist medical services that prevent them from getting the health services they need, and this of course affects patients directly and impartially schoolchildren and their development” , Thompson said. “It has a negative impact on people and their ability to maintain paid employment and earn a living wage. And it negatively affects the community.
“What it does is allow health care providers to do a lot more than we could do with the first cycle of telehealth that we all got a little familiar with on COVID, which is basically chatting with your doctor via smart phone app or computer. “, Thompson said. “What our platform does is actually place the specialized diagnostics needed for specialized medical care directly into a school clinic, such as Bell Well or a federally licensed health center in an urban environment.
Thompson said for every two primary care visits, a specialist referral is generated, noting that he wasn’t sure what the numbers showed at the Bee Well Clinic.
“But there is a huge need for specialized medical services for these community patients,” Thompson said. “So the basic idea that we had and discussed with Dr. Price was to take our specialty health platform and deploy it in the existing facility (the Bell Well Clinic).”
At least one and possibly two rooms would be needed to provide these services.
Such services would include opthomology, ENT, pain and spine, cardiology, as well as some preventive services.
Another service already offered to students at the Bee Well Clinic is in the area of mental health.
“We have partnered with community organizations and we actually have mental health workers who come into schools and provide these services in schools,” Price told commissioners and other county government officials. “And then we also have telehealth.”
The goal or objective is to mix people from the community with the students.
The details of all of this are still being worked out, Price said.
“We also talked about some sort of mobile unit,” she said. “If we could get some type of mobile clinic that could go into the community, that would be another way to better serve the community as a whole with mental health services and so on.
“My vision goes beyond our school district,” Price said. “Of course my first priority is our students and making sure they are doing well because we know that when they are doing well they will be able to learn and progress from grade to grade and then get their high school graduation, and have options. But there is also a greater need in our community. How can we take this model that we are implementing in our school district and have a real impact on the greater community of Baldwin County.”
Commissioner Kendrick Butts asked Price and Thompson what they considered a success and how many people they expected to see on a regular basis.
“We’re going to have a target of 16 specialist visits per day,” Thompson said. “That’s our goal at MedCure at Stone Mountain. We think it’s doable.
The Bee Well Clinic was established with a federal grant of more than $2.5 million, Price said.
Price said it was through a community partnership with Georgia College & State University, Communities In Schools, and the Baldwin County School District and local health systems.
The Bell Well Clinic currently operates four days a week.
Price said the local clinic was not just for students.
“We see staff members and their family members,” Price said. “Thus, family members of students and our employees also have access to the Bee Well Clinic.”
Baldwin County Commission Chairman Henry Craig said he had the honor of visiting the Bell Well Clinic last year.
He asked if any of the other commissioners had any questions.
“Knowing a little about the school system, during the day, how do you manage the child in high school or college to get that service,” commissioner Sammy Hall asked.
Price said first that the parents had to give permission. The student can then be transported to the clinic, the parents can come to the clinic.
“We also have telemedicine equipment in each of our schools and in (school) clinics,” Price said. “Parents can also participate and be part of the visit. We have made it as easy as possible for our students, employees and families to access quality health care.
The requested grant is up to $950,000, Price told county government leaders.