posted by Deb Rice-Johnson, President, Highmark Inc
on August 24, 2020
Schools are the heartbeat of our local communities. They inform and inspire our children, and strengthen our social fabric. And right now, they’re working harder than ever. Across the communities we serve, schools are planning for the 2020-2021 year amid challenging and ever-changing circumstances. They’re balancing the need to create a positive and fulfilling learning environment with the need to keep students, faculty, and other staff members safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whatever decisions schools make in returning to class, we’re here for them. We want to be a trusted advisor and source of support. That’s why Highmark is partnering with schools to provide them with the resources and clinical expertise needed to make this year like no other a remarkable one for all involved.
Throughout summer, we teamed up with our health care provider partners – including at Allegheny Health Network (AHN) – to provide current, evidence-based information on COVID-19 to school decision-makers.
Through virtual meetings and other interactive events, we covered topics related to social distancing, personal protective equipment, hand sanitation and surface cleaning, transportation, sports, testing, contact tracing, and mental health. These events were tailored for school superintendents, business managers, principals, human resources administrators, nurses, and support staff. As class gets back in session and as knowledge of the pandemic evolves, we continue to offer guidance and an open line of communication to schools. We are exploring additional opportunities to provide clinical support and expertise to schools across our core markets in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia, including through our partnership with Delaware-based ChristianaCare.
For school districts desiring an even higher level of support, we have partnered with AHN to offer a physician consultant service. This service provides a dedicated clinician advisor as well as a team of experts in infectious disease, infection prevention, behavioral health, laboratory operations, employee health and wellness. The consultant and broader team work with a school to offer personalized guidance that can inform their policies and practices.
As we talked with our educational partners, some expressed concern about obtaining the resources needed to reopen schools safely. To support their efforts, Highmark is distributing back-to-school toolkits that include items like face shields for teachers, adjustable masks for students, and sanitizers and disinfectants. The toolkits also include fun posters, decals, and other visuals that promote safe practices like social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing. We’re delivering these toolkits to schools at a time and place of their choosing, so they can be used when the time is right to reopen their buildings.
These back-to-school initiatives are part of Highmark’s larger efforts to help the communities that we serve during and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also provided $2 million to address food insecurity, financial stability, and safety-net health care across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Delaware; partnered with minority and woman-owned small businesses to distribute and manufacture more than 1 million face coverings for Highmark members, community organizations in need, health care professionals, and businesses; donated more than 40,000 cloth face coverings to EMS professionals; reduced out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 testing and treatment; extended care via telemedicine and mobile testing units; and created tools like a dedicated COVID-19 hotline and online symptom checker.
Highmark proudly serves more than 400 school districts. We have always been there for local educators, and we always will be. Here’s to a happy, healthy, and remarkable 2020-2021 school year.