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Superintendent Series: Saving Lives With Hazel Health

A California superintendent describes Hazel Health’s impact in his community.
6 Minutes
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Published

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Introduction by Josh Golomb, Hazel Health CEO:

This past July, I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the people I respect most, Superintendent Adolfo Melara, who led Delhi Unified School District in Merced County, California for seven years. He was one of the first superintendents to introduce telehealth services for all students district-wide through Hazel. Since 2017, Delhi students and families have entrusted Hazel to provide care through over 7,200 visits, with nearly three-quarters of families opting into services. The work in this community is just inspiring.


Read on to hear from Superintendent Melara himself about why he chose to partner with Hazel, how he convinced his community to take a chance on our partnership, and what advice he has for other superintendents.


Josh Golomb, Hazel Health CEO: Thank you so much for speaking with me today. You have been a partner with Hazel for several years now. Could you tell us a little bit about why you partner with Hazel?


Superintendent Adolfo Melara: If you don't mind, I’d like to tell you two stories. One is sad, one is happy. They are both related to this conversation.


When I was about eight years old, I had a distant cousin named Thomas. It was so long ago, maybe over 40 years ago, when he had an accident playing outside and came home with a headache. His parents did not know what could be wrong. So they said rest, put a couple of herbs, try a couple of ointments. Unfortunately, Thomas did not make it. He actually had sustained a severe brain injury.


Fast forward 40 years, and a child comes into school with a headache. The parents don't know what to do and everyone is confused. So the principal, having been trained with Hazel, initiates a meeting with a Hazel medical professional, who notices something and immediately makes a referral to a local doctor. They call the doctor, and by the time the child makes it to the doctor, things are more severe. The doctor's concerns send her to the emergency room, and by the time she gets there, the child is fighting for her life. So let me just fast forward that the child went through emergency brain surgery, spent weeks in rehab. And here's a happy ending. Not only did she come back to school, she's 100% cognitively back. One hundred percent, even though it was major brain surgery. That's why I'm always, always sharing why Hazel has a place in our ecosystem and education and public schools and why it must continue to grow.


Josh: I remember when you called me to tell me that story, I was on the soccer field with my kids at the time. We’ve had many conversations over the years, and that was one that I will never forget. How do you think your school community would be different today had you not had Hazel there to support that student?


Superintendent Melara: When I first learned about Hazel and met you, there was a lot of pressure placed on me from the community because Hazel was new and a private company, not a district or agency. The way that I shared it with the community was by saying that I believed this program could save lives, and if this program could help us keep one child safe, could save one child's life, then it's worth the risk. When that student received the emergency medical care she needed, I wrote to you, I wrote the principal, I wrote the board members, and I said yesterday you saved a life. And what made it happen? Had Hazel not been there, this child would not be with us today. This is the power of your organization.


Josh: Thank you so much for sharing that. As a district leader and also as an educator, how do you see the connection between students’ physical health and their social and emotional wellbeing?


Superintendent Melara: I know the number one, two, three causes of why our children come to an office every morning and want to go home. About a year in with Hazel, I began to see that some of those maladies may be connected to the social emotional. When you have a tummy ache every morning, when you have a headache every morning, but you are well fed, well hydrated, something bigger is going on. Since 2013, our community has been saying we need mental health services in our district, we need social and emotional help. So I think we're serving this community greatly because not only are we serving the medical, but through the medical, we're finding things about the social and emotional.


Josh: As you mentioned earlier, there is so much pressure on superintendents when they want to introduce a new program or organization to their district and school board. We have a lot of superintendents that are joining us as partners to bring Hazel to their communities. What would be your advice on what we should be doing to make the jobs of those superintendents and principals as easy as possible?


Superintendent Melara: First, it helps me out as superintendent when you come with great knowledge and you know your stuff. When you know your ecosystem, your space, your business, that helps me out. When you helped me in board meetings, it showed commitment. You immediately came in and met with me, which assured me of the commitment. Your expertise helped us to narrate why what we're doing is important.


Number two, you're going to have to help me with the soft skills because you're coming into many districts where health is considered a nurse's realm. So understanding that you're going to be working with individuals that may have a lot of questions. What are you doing? Are you going to do my job now? How does it fit with FERPA and HIPAA? So letting them know you will support them and help them.


The third is that you've been very responsive and communicative. You always get us your reports, that really helps me out, having that knowledge and understanding. When a superintendent brings you into their district, they want the staff to know that you are there to do nothing but support them. Then be active and responsive, the way you have been. Not only am I proud of our partnership, I'm heavily reliant on Hazel to serve our children.


Josh: Thank you for your wisdom and your passion and just your friendship. You have always been such a great partner because you saw the vision for what we could be in your district and held us to that standard. This partnership with Hazel would not be here today without your leadership. So thank you. Thank you so much.


This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.


Reflections from Josh Golomb, Hazel Health CEO:

Superintendent Melara constantly reminds me of the power technology can play in providing exceptional healthcare. In the story he shared, the student’s primary care provider had initially diagnosed her with the flu during an in-person visit when she presented with a headache and fatigue. However, the student went to the school health office for a Hazel Health telemedicine visit when symptoms had persisted more than a week later. The Hazel provider who treated this student couldn't find an obvious cause for the headache, so she performed a thorough neurologic exam and noticed subtle abnormalities. Any further delay in care could have been catastrophic - the student was treated in the emergency room for a brain abscess just hours later.


I think of this story often as we consider the potential of telehealth. Headaches are one of our most common visit reasons, and while most pediatric headaches are benign, our clinicians follow detailed guidelines to assess and manage each one. Even in the virtual setting, they are able to perform tests and uncover medical issues that one might think could not be done through telehealth. With an incredibly dedicated team and collaborative training, we have been able to create the most robust telehealth visit possible.


Healthy students. Healthy schools.

See how Hazel Health can keep your students healthy and ready to learn
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Hazel gets students the right support quickly
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. He was sad about COVID-19 impacting his senior year, and he was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and he felt he didn't have the right support at home.

After discussing his feelings, a Hazel doctor connected him with resources that he described as “life-changing.” He was very grateful and shared that he didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
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Hazel expands Health Services at school
A child came into the health center with a sprained wrist. The school nurse helped her ice the injury, but she was still in pain. A Hazel doctor helped the nurse put the student’s wrist in a splint and gave her over-the-counter medicine to help relieve the pain.

The school nurse expressed how grateful she was that Hazel could help her care for the child. She shared that before Hazel, she could not give medication to students, and the health office did not have splints available. She thanked Hazel for helping her do more for students in need of care.
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Hazel is convenient and fast for families
A mother noticed her son was getting low on his asthma medication. She tried to schedule a visit with his doctor to refill his prescription, but all of the available appointments required her to take off from work, and her son would need to miss school. She needed to get her son to the doctor so he wouldn't run out of medicine, so she reached out to Hazel.

Hazel was able to see her son and send the refill to a local pharmacy within one day. The mother was happy that there was no need to interrupt school or work to get her son to a doctor for his medicine. She was also amazed at how easy and fast the entire process was.


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Student Story
A student was coughing and sneezing a lot, but her family wasn’t sure if she was sick or had allergies. Thankfully, her school used Hazel, and they could get an answer.

After talking with the school nurse and the Hazel provider about her symptoms and medical history, the student was happy to find out it was likely allergies. She got some medicine and returned to class feeling better.
Hazel gets students the right support quickly
During the pandemic, a high school student was having a hard time coping. He was sad about COVID-19 impacting his senior year, and he was worried about the state of the world. The student was also struggling with some personal conflicts, and he felt he didn't have the right support at home.

After discussing his feelings, a Hazel doctor connected him with resources that he described as “life-changing.” He was very grateful and shared that he didn't know where to go for help before Hazel.
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Parent Story
Shortly after COVID-19 began, a student began to develop tics. Her parents took her to a neurologist, but they wanted to get her into counseling as well. The student’s mother was having a hard time finding answers to her questions and didn’t know where to start the process, so she turned to Hazel.

The Hazel doctor listened as the mother shared her concerns and frustrations. Hazel reassured her that they would find the right services for her child. After the initial visit, the Hazel doctor partnered with the school counselor and the student’s mother to identify resources and counseling services that are a good fit.
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A physical health visit leads to an important discovery
A student came into the nurse’s office because his vision went blurry. The Hazel doctor looked at his eyes, but he did not see any injury. As he asked him questions about his symptoms, he started to sense that he was down about something. After a few minutes, the student shared that he was really sad because his mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. He explained that he feels worried, and it’s hard for him to focus.

Hazel called home, and the student’s mother confirmed her diagnosis. They discussed how to help manage the child’s stress, and Hazel offered to connect the child with counseling resources through the school. The mother was very grateful for the guidance and was eager to get her child help during a stressful time.
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Counselor Story
Hazel Health has been integral this year in getting our students the mental health services needed to help them live healthy lives.  The staff has been attentive, prompt, and resourceful. There is an evident sense of caring for the work they do and the students they serve. It has been a pleasure partnering with Hazel Health in providing mental wellness for our Garland ISD families.
Parents: Let us know you are interested in Hazel for your school
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We will reach out to your school district to let them know that parents at their school are interested in Hazel Health services.
Learn how Hazel can improve access to care for K-12 students
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A member of our team will be in touch to talk about how we partner with schools and school nurses to expand access to health services - whether students are learning in school or at home.
COVID-19: Learn how Hazel can improve access to care for K-12 students
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Hazel services are offered with $0 patient responsibility for all students through the 2020-21 school year for at-home or in-school doctor visits, due to these unprecedented times. Get in touch with us to learn more.
Let us know you are interested in adding Hazel to your insurance provider network
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Let us know you are interested in adding Hazel to your insurance provider network
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