SEABROOK – Starting in January, Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) students will be able to get oral and vision exams without missing class for an appointment.
PGCPS announced on Nov. 25 a new partnership with CF Charities and the Student Health Impact Project (SHIP) that will offer free vision and dental services for all of its 136,000 students. Mobile units will travel to county schools and allow students to make check-ups and appointments without losing class time.
According to school officials, eye services will be provided to all schools and include screenings, follow-up services with an optometrist or ophthalmologist, and free glasses when available. Dental care will be provided at 101 schools and include routine treatment. All the services will be free for students, according to PGCPS.
“We want to also make sure that they are healthy because when they are healthy, they can learn,” said PGCPS CEO Monica Goldson. “What this does is allow our students, through the mobile van, to have the experience to be checked out in their school location and not having to miss a day of school, your parents not having to miss a day at work and us truly being able to provide you services and support so you can see all the schoolwork you have every day and eat healthy when you have good oral health and hygiene.”
The Metropolitan region has had mobile health clinics in the past with Mary’s Center providing similar services in Washington, D.C. During PGCPS’ ninth annual block party on Aug. 17, Oral Health Impact Project, an organization that works with school districts to provide affordable dental care to students, offered free vision and dental screenings.
Students gathered at the press conference at Avalon Elementary School located in Fort Washington to learn more about the new mobile clinics, with one of the mobile units parked outside the front entrance. County Executive Angela Alsobrooks recalled times not being able to see things on a chalkboard and asked the students to imagine if they could not actually see when trying to learn.
“Today’s announcement is all about you,” Alsobrooks said. “It is about your learning, how you learn, and what it is you need to be the best that you can be.”
The program will be funded through CF Charities. Based in Philadelphia, CF Charities is a recognized 501(c)(3) public nonprofit organization which has provided mentoring and afterschool programs as well as scholarship opportunities to students in the past, according to its mission statement.
Founder and CEO Dr. Larry Caplin is a county native who launched a delivery service to provide dental care in correctional facilities, detention centers and juvenile centers. The program has expanded to provide full healthcare services nationwide.
Caplin said that it was former Congressman Elijah Cummings, who encouraged him to come to Maryland to provide the same services to help local students. The program is very selective in choosing locations, Caplin said, but meetings with Goldson and Alsobrooks pushed CF Charites to come to Prince George’s.
“What we are looking to do is make sure you have access to quality dental care and vision care,” Caplin said. “You are going to get your teeth checked, and your eyes checked so you can see the board so you are healthy and we are going to do it in a fun place, a place you are familiar with and a place that you love.”
SHIP was established by Clinton native and DeMatha Catholic High School alum Rodney McLeod Jr. to improve health outcomes for students inside and outside the classroom.
“During my time with the New Orleans Saints, I was very active in the community,” said former NFL player and Forestville native Brandon Coleman, who appeared representing SHIP. “And I took being active and being an athlete, but my main goal was always to come back home and help with the growth in Prince George’s County.”
County officials say that the mobile units will be managed by health care professionals that will provide the vision and dental work, with the vehicle fitted to look like a dental office with two chairs inside. Students will all have access to receive care from the units, regardless of their health care status.