GREENFIELD — Sweeping changes to medication policies in Greenfield-Central Schools have resulted in significantly fewer visits to the schools’ health clinics and a smoother school day for those charged with keeping students healthy.
One major change – allowing junior high and high school students to carry their own non-prescription medication – has resulted in a 96 percent drop in the number of visits to the clinic for over-the-counter remedies.
Corporation nurse Dawn Hanson introduced a variety of changes in response to a 2012 investigation over missing pills, including the implementation of security cameras and monthly medication audits. But the biggest change has been the overhaul of the school’s policy governing over-the-counter medications.
Prescription medication remains locked up in the clinic. But this year, students in grade 7 through 12 whose parent or guardian applies for a medication pass have been allowed to keep basic medication in their lockers and self-administer doses for minor aches and pains. G-C is the only district in the county to allow students that freedom.
To illustrate the difference it’s made, health assistant Becky Robertson just has to open one of the empty drawers in her clinic. Last year, the high school health assistant kept upwards of 250 over-the-counter pills bottles.
Today, there are three.
“The foot traffic is definitely down,” Robertson said.
Corporation-wide, the numbers are even more staggering. Data from an eight-month period during the 2012-2013 school year shows health assistants administered 6,159 doses of over-the-counter medications. During the same timeframe this school year, they administered 287.
The corresponding decrease in clinic visits eases stress on busy health assistants and allows them to focus on students with more serious medical needs, Hanson said.
“It’s huge,” she said. “I feel our students are better off; I feel our health assistants are in a better position.”
The new policy also puts the onus on parents to monitor how much medicine their children bring to school, Hanson said.
“Parents have a better idea as to how much their kids are taking,” she said “If they send in a Costco-size bottle at the beginning of the year, they’re not going to know.”
There is always the chance a student could abuse medication, which is why the school prohibits them from keeping their own cough syrup or any medication that could be used to make drugs. So far, there have been no discipline issues related to students carrying medication, Hanson said.
Hanson recently presented a report on the school clinics to the G-C school board, which reacted with surprise at the result of the new policies.
“I’ve always felt like our clinics did a wonderful job, and I am thrilled because …. things are going even smoother,” board president Retta Livengood said. “The impact is being felt.”
Legally, the board did not have to approve the policy changes, but members voiced support for the overhaul when Hanson began discussing it last year.
Hanson told the board there is no suggestion children aren’t receiving the care they need, because attendance has remained steady.
The new policies have caused a culture shift at the clinics as well, Robertson pointed out. In some cases, students saw a visit to the clinic as a means of getting out of class or simply taking some time out of the day to relax.
“When you see the same kid coming over and over again, you have to question,” Robertson said. “You should not be needing medicine at 2 o’clock every day during math.”
Livengood said she views the adjustments as common-sense measures.
“I think there’s a point we were being so hyper-vigilant about it,” she said. “These are adults, almost, and they can handle those kinds of things.”