CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The results are in following an eight-month survey project from West Virginians for Affordable Health Care in regards to children’s healthcare and services in schools.

Over 4,000 surveys were sent out by the group to parents and professionals as part of the Children’s Health Collaborative Project.

West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (WVAHC) used 20 different survey tools and received 789 auditable responses.

“This report is the first of many pieces of information we will be sharing over the next year regarding what folks think in their communities about school and healthcare,” Kelli Caseman, the Director of Child Health for WVAHC, said.

“I think the biggest takeaways from this report is an overwhelming number of people, 88-percent, believe there are kids in their communities who need to access healthcare but are not for a variety of reasons and believe schools are an appropriate place to access that healthcare.”

In other key findings, the survey asked school nurses and principals if they collect children’s health insurance information. Of the 97 school nurses, 47 said yes while 42 said no, and eight did not respond. Of the 91 principals surveyed, 67 said no and 24 said yes.

Principals and superintendents were also asked what are the most challenging barriers to children receiving healthcare in the community. For both principals and superintendents, mental health care led the number of responses over primary care, oral healthcare, and other.

“The professionals who spend the most time with these children are school staff,” Caseman said. “We thought it was most important to start with them and ask them what they are seeing. Ask them what can we do to help kids in the communities who aren’t getting the healthcare that they need.”

Caseman and the WVAHC said the intent for the survey is to build bridges between health care, schools, and their communities to ensure that students have access to comprehensive, affordable health care.

“There are a lot of challenges,” she said. “The goal of this project over the next year is to identify communities who want some help and we are going to look very specifically to look at policy change.

“There are so many different things going on in these communities and it really depends on county or school as to the process that they are following. Some are doing some really good things and some could use our help.”

WVAHC received a 2-year grant from community catalysts to help communities make better connections between schools and health care.

“We really want a call to action,” Caseman said. “We want to create a state dialogue about what is happening with kids and what we can do better.”