Telehealth Services and COVID-19 Response Efforts to Expand for Children in Rural North Carolina Schools

A $100,000 grant from the Baxter International Foundation will address barriers to healthcare and pandemic needs in McDowell and Avery Counties

New York Children’s Health Fund today announced funding from the Baxter International Foundation to continue and expand telehealth services and COVID-19 response services for students in North Carolina’s rural McDowell and Avery Counties. The $100,000 grant will be administered by Children’s Health Fund to enable the Center for Rural Health Innovation’s Health-e-Schools program to provide pre-K through 12th grade students and school staff with access to primary and mental healthcare through telehealth. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to distress communities in the region, many students and their families face substantial barriers to high-quality care stemming from financial constraints, transportation barriers, and a shortage of healthcare providers. This funding will help to sustain critical medical care in this time of heightened needs.

Children in low-income families and un- or under-insured children in the region have the most difficulty accessing care, which often results in missed medical checkups, screenings, critical vaccinations, and treatment. The economic devastation and lockdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic have only worsened these barriers. Telehealth has been proven effective at expanding healthcare in rural communities, but Health-e-Schools’ nationally-recognized model is unique in allowing students and staff to access care during the school day. This helps to reduce missed work days for parents and caretakers as well as classroom time for students.

Health-e-Schools’ decade of experience in school telehealth allowed the program to seamlessly adapt to both remote and in-person learning during the pandemic. With funding from Baxter International Foundation in 2020, the program distributed over 1,000 thermometers, personal protective equipment, hand sanitizer, and more to students and school staff. Given students’ heightened mental health concerns during the pandemic, the program has also strengthened its behavioral healthcare services during this crisis, referring many students to counselors and therapists for telehealth appointments at home or at school.

“Children’s Health Fund is committed to breaking down access barriers for children in underserved communities. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that telehealth is more than an innovative niche, it is crucial to healthcare access in this age,” said Children’s Health Fund Chief Executive Officer Dennis Walto. “Baxter has been ahead of the curve in supporting telehealth, and their continued generous support helps to ensure that children in rural North Carolina have access to high-quality care at a time when it is more needed than ever.”

“Before the pandemic, the children in our region were already vulnerable to health risks stemming from access barriers, financial challenges, and more. COVID-19 made clear just how vital telehealth services are for these children,” said Amanda Martin, executive director of the Center for Rural Health Innovation. “We are so grateful to Baxter for seeing the value of these services early on. The health repercussions of this pandemic will be with us for many months to come, and Baxter’s continued support will allow Health-e-Schools to reach even more children in rural North Carolina.”

“We know that innovative health solutions are critical to increasing access to healthcare, and the COVID-19 pandemic only heightened the need for digital services like telehealth that bring care to peoples’ homes,” said Verónica Arroyave, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation. “Supporting good health and wellbeing in the communities where Baxter employees live and work is a priority for us, and we are proud to work with local partners to expand healthcare options for families across McDowell and Avery Counties.” Baxter International Inc. owns and operates a large manufacturing facility in McDowell County.

“I’m thrilled to continue our partnership with Children’s Health Fund and the Center for Rural Health Innovation to bring needed telehealth services to children and families in our local community,” said Scott Overbeck, site director of Baxter’s North Cove facility located in McDowell County. “We have seen firsthand how valuable our partners’ services are, and our employees are proud to know Baxter is making a difference in the local communities where they live, work, and serve.”

The Health-e-Schools program administers telehealth care through high-definition video conferencing using specially-equipped stethoscopes and cameras. Teams work in conjunction with school nurses and primary care physicians to ensure students’ care is personal and coordinated. Medical issues like earaches, sore throats, colds, allergies, asthma, as well as chronic disease management, sports physicals, and mental health visits, and more can be addressed through telehealth.

About Children’s Health Fund

Children’s Health Fund is committed to ensuring access to high-quality healthcare for children living in some of the United State’s most underserved communities. We acknowledge the role that racism and systems of oppression play in shaping health inequities; we support programs that bring comprehensive primary care directly to children where they live, learn, and play; we partner with schools to create a supportive school environment to decrease health barriers to learning, chronic absenteeism, and the impact of trauma for children; and we work to improve the quality of life for families through policy and advocacy efforts that address systemic racism and drive systems change. In times of emergency, Children’s Health Fund mobilizes to ensure partners have the resources and tools to provide care to those most in need. Collectively, these efforts help to advance health equity. We support 25 programs that comprise a National Network of community health and educational partners located in 15 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C.

 About Baxter International Foundation

Every day, Baxter and the Baxter International Foundation strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who depend on the company’s products, and in the communities where employees live and work. The Foundation helps advance Baxter’s mission to save and sustain lives through global partnerships that increase access to healthcare for the underserved, bolster STEM education to develop the next generation of healthcare innovators and promote overall community resilience. For more information, please visit Baxter’s Corporate Responsibility page.

Media Contact:, 212.535.9400, ext. 254

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