Avera Health, JDRF, and the Helmsley Charitable Trust Partner to Provide Virtual Health Care to Schools in Underserved Communities

Program focuses on installing virtual nursing programs in schools and is currently recruiting schools and students for research

NEW YORK and SIOUX FALLS, MAY 25, 2022 Avera Health, JDRF, and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust announce the creation of the eCare School Health T1D Demonstration Project to address disparities in access to school health care, starting with students living with diabetes. Avera Health is partnering with the telehealth provider Avel eCare to study the impact of delivering virtual school nursing services in medically underserved communities.

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) recommends students have daily access to a full-time RN; yet, only 39% of schools in the U.S. employ a full-time school nurse, and just 35% employ a part-time school nurse. In some rural areas the coverage rate is even lower. eCare School Health provides access to experienced school nurses via live audio-visual technology. Registered nurses assist school staff in caring for students who have chronic health needs or acute health needs (head injuries, allergies, asthma, etc.). When there is a medical issue, within minutes an Avel eCare nurse is available via video to assess the situation and provide stable and continuous support to the school staff member. During the 2020-2021 school year, over 6,300 video visits were conducted serving 50 schools in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

According to Christine Hockett, PhD, Avera Director of Community Research, “This project will also study whether virtual telehealth services within the school setting not only increases the likelihood of students staying in school, but also whether it minimizes the need for parents to take time off from work and decreases healthcare and travel costs.”

Due to the lack of nursing care available in many schools, without telehealth, parents are left to give directions to school staff without medical training for students with chronic conditions, such as diabetes. The three-year study will evaluate the effectiveness of the eCare School Health program on outcomes related to diabetes care and management and the quality of life of students with diabetes. The study will also assess the impact of the program on children who receive care for acute health needs.

“This service fills a significant gap by providing reliable and consistent coverage to school students, especially those with demanding chronic health care needs such as diabetes and those facing access challenges in rural and underserved communities,” says Sheila Freed, BSN, RN, NCSN, Avel eCare School Health Director. “About 25% of public schools had no coverage whatsoever. COVID-19 has likely affected these numbers and has driven the continued shortage of school nurses, making this innovative program such an important resource for schools looking for coverage.”

The eCare School Health T1D Demonstration Project will enroll approximately 100 schools and invite families of students aged 3-17 with type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes to enroll in the study.

Avera is currently recruiting schools and students for the research project. For more information about the eCare School Health T1D Demonstration Project please contact Sheila Freed at 605-606-0556 or eschoolhealth@avera.org or visit, eCare School Health.

“As an organization rooted in community, JDRF is excited to partner with the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Avera to bring this amazing program to the communities that need it most,” says Sanjoy Dutta, PhD, JDRF Chief Scientific Officer. “This partnership can improve health and quality of life for children and adolescents today, as we support development of new and transformative T1D therapies for the future for all people with type 1 diabetes.”

“Type 1 diabetes affects not only the individuals living with it day after day, but their families and support systems as well,” said Gina Agiostratidou, PhD, MBA, Program Director for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Type 1 Diabetes Program. “JDRF and Avera are ideal partners in Helmsley’s effort to improve outcomes and increase peace of mind for students with diabetes and all who care for them.” 

About Avera Health

The Avera Health system has over 20,000 employees and physicians, serving more than 300 locations and 100 communities in a five-state region. Our ministry, our people and our superior value distinguish Avera. We carry on the health care legacy of the Benedictine and Presentation Sisters, delivering care in an environment guided by our values of compassion, hospitality and stewardship. For more information about Avera, visit our website at Avera.org.

About Avel eCare

Avel eCare offers the largest and most comprehensive virtual health networks in the world, partnering with more than 650 health care systems, rural hospitals, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, schools and skilled nursing facilities to deliver innovative telemedicine care across the country. Learn more by visiting Avelecare.com.

About JDRF

JDRF’s mission is to accelerate life-changing breakthroughs to cure, prevent and treat T1D and its complications. To accomplish this, JDRF has invested more than $2.5 billion in research funding since our inception. We are an organization built on a grassroots model of people connecting in their local communities, collaborating regionally for efficiency and broader fundraising impact, and uniting on a national stage to pool resources, passion, and energy. We collaborate with academic institutions, policymakers, and corporate and industry partners to develop and deliver a pipeline of innovative therapies to people living with T1D. Our staff and volunteers throughout the United States and our five international affiliates are dedicated to advocacy, community engagement and our vision of a world without T1D. For more information, please visit jdrf.org or follow us on Twitter (@JDRF), Facebook (@myjdrf), and Instagram (@jdrfhq).

About The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust

The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Since beginning active grantmaking in 2008, Helmsley has committed more than $3 billion for a wide range of charitable purposes. The Helmsley Type 1 Diabetes Program is one of the largest private foundation funders of T1D in the nation focused on understanding the disease, developing better treatments, and improving care and access in the U.S and low- and middle- income countries. For more information on Helmsley and its programs, visit helmsleytrust.org.

Media Contacts:

Avera Health: Jake Iversen, 605-322-7790, jake.iversen@avera.org

JDRF: Ayana L. Young, 347-496-2494, ayoung@jdrf.org

Helmsley Charitable Trust: Dr. Alison Carley, 212-953-2887, acarley@helmsleytrust.org