Governor Wolf Announces Pilot Program to Connect Community Schools to Health-Related Services in Philadelphia

June 12, 2017

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Tom Wolf, Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Ted Dallas and Department of Education (PDE) Secretary Pedro A. Rivera announced an investment in Philadelphia City community schools to leverage and connect schools to the large array of health-related services that are available for Philadelphia’s children. This strategic investment of $1.5 million will improve health, school attendance, and academic achievement for children who attend community schools in the North Philadelphia Health Enterprise Zone (HEZ).

“As our schools focus on teaching and learning, educators know that we cannot separate the success of schools from the needs of the community,” Governor Wolf said “Schools can’t deliver effective instruction if students are hungry, if children are not healthy, if they have needs, if children are worrying where are they going to sleep that night. This program, along with delivering more funding and resources to schools, will help teachers teach and students learn.”

The North Philadelphia Health Enterprise Zone encompasses an area from Spring Garden Street north to Olney and from Frankford in the east to Germantown in the west. Thirty-one percent of the people in these zip codes live under the federal poverty line.

Pilot projects will be conducted in four elementary schools in the HEZ: James Logan Elementary, William Cramp Elementary, Edward Gideon Elementary/Middle, and Bethune Elementary.

“Investing in our kids is among the smartest investments we can make,” Sec. Dallas said.  “The funding provided through the Health Enterprise Zone will help children access quality health care at the schools they attend. This funding will not only help improve children’s health but also help ensure they are ready to learn and to get the education they deserve.”

The community schools model works with schools to implement a strategic, coordinated plan with expanded supports and aligned services to address the broader set of needs of the whole child. The funding from this initiative provides critical additional support to bolster and make more effective the services and activities offered at the school and through the children’s Medicaid coverage

“There is no one, cookie-cutter approach to community schools,” Secretary Rivera said.  “These schools go beyond meeting a student’s academic need alone, but aim to partner with community assets to serve the ‘whole’ student. We have to involve and invite every stakeholder to the table and ask that they focus on what they do best to improve what happens in the classroom and in the school.”

“This commitment from the state builds on the great work already happening in the Community Schools—we hope this project will help the kids in these schools get the care they need, but also will help develop strategies that can ultimately help all Philadelphia school children be healthy and ready to learn,” said Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

The funding will be designated for two main purposes:

  1. Connecting kids to care:
    • Making sure insured children can access the services their health care coverage provides, especially dental and vision care;
    • Providing care for children who are uninsured;
    • Tackling one of the largest health challenges Philadelphia children face: asthma. By making sure children’s home and school environments are free of triggers; and
    • Making sure all eligible families are enrolled in health care coverage and other benefits, such as SNAP.
  2. Testing expanded supports for a trauma-informed school to build resilience:
    • The model will help create a safe, resiliency-based climate in and around the school by supporting and training all school staff, providing screening and assessment tools, group sessions and individualized counseling, and educational sessions for students and their families.

The North Philadelphia HEZ seeks to create a strategic alliance led by DHS and launch a five-year project in the zip codes surrounding the eight-mile stretch of Broad Street from Cheltenham Avenue to City Hall. (19120 – 26; 30; 19132-34; 19138, 19140 – 41; and 19144) There are nearly 300,000 Medicaid recipients in the North Philadelphia zone, representing 13 percent of Pennsylvania’s entire Medicaid population. Families living in this area are more likely to experience deep poverty, affecting their health, education, employment, and income. Many patients experience a host of socio-economic issues and comorbidities that contribute to poor health outcomes.

Rather than simply expanding the strategies currently in place, the HEZ will try new and innovative community-based approaches to coordinated health care and reward strategies to minimize health disparities, improve health outcomes, and stabilize and reduce care costs.

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