Altru Health System recently announced a new partnership with Devils Lake Public Schools for the 2021-22 school year. The partnership, which started in the beginning of September, provides Devils Lake Public Schools with athletic trainers to support the district’s athletic program and a full-time school nurse.

Devils Lake Public Schools’ previous athletic training service agreement with CHI St. Alexius Hospital expired in August. According to Matt Bakke, superintendent of Devils Lake Public Schools, renewing with CHI St. Alexius was considered, but ultimately, the district chose to strike an agreement with Altru instead.

“When we look at the overall agreement and what they were able to offer, it just made more sense to continue to partner with Altru and be able to provide this partnership moving forward,” Bakke said.

Bakke said cost, number of staff and supplies Altru could provide to the school district were considered while making the decision. The new contract allows the district up to two athletic trainers. Altru currently has one athletic trainer in the schools, but is in the process of hiring a second.

While negotiating the sports medicine contract, it was determined that the district could also benefit from a school nurse. Devils Lake Public Schools signed a second agreement for Altru to provide the district with a full time school nurse.

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The nurse works between the five school buildings in the district, spending one morning and one afternoon at each building throughout the week. Altru provides their nursing service to Devils Lake Public Schools at no cost to the school district.

“The school nurse program is completely, 100% supported by Altru,” said Amber Stokke, manager of Altru Clinic in Devils Lake. “They’re assisting with supplies as needed, but the remainder is with us.”

Dr. Stephanie Foughty, physician and clinic chair, said that having an Altru nurse in the schools will help combat absenteeism among students. With a nurse in the school, when students are experiencing health issues during the school day, rather than having administrators make calls on whether the student should be sent home, the nurse will make the final decision.

“Our goal as a health system is to provide high quality care and we feel that having a nurse in the schools is one step in fulfilling that goal,” said Foughty.

The nurse started in Devils Lake Public Schools on Sept. 1, and according to Stokke, there has been nothing but positive feedback from members of the community.

“They’re very thankful and we’re very fortunate to be working with such a great group of people,” said Stokke.

Altru has also made a sponsorship commitment of $250,000 to Devils Lake Public Schools over the next 10 years. The money will be available to use for the schools’ greatest needs as determined by the school district. These needs do not need to be sports medicine or health related.

In July, a representative from Altru confirmed interest in purchasing CHI St. Alexius Hospital in Devils Lake. Foughty says that the partnership with Devils Lake Public Schools is not directly related, but is a part of Altru’s overall commitment to the community -- to ensure that people in the Devils Lake region have access to high quality healthcare.

“We’re still working with community members and city leadership regarding how else we can enhance services here, whether that's working with CHI, acquiring the hospital or whatever that looks like,” Foughty said. “Directly related, no, it’s just part of the bigger picture in improving regional healthcare for the Altru region.”