The first-ever School-Based Health Center (SBHC) in the mid-Hudson Valley Region opened this month, as the result of a collaboration between Open Door Family Medical Center and the Webutuck Central School District.
The grand opening ribbon cutting, held May 14th, celebrated this partnership which will bring easy access to regular, high quality, evidence-based health care and will serve all three schools in the district. It will be located in the Eugene Brooks Intermediate School-High School connecting corridor.
“It’s been shown that, for students, SBHC’s improve classroom performance, result in fewer absences, lead to less risky behavior and are more likely to help them transition to adulthood,” said Lindsay Farrell, president and CEO of Open Door Family Medical Center. “This is particularly the case with underserved, underinsured students, who are the most vulnerable. It’s really a game-changer for students and their families.”
A team of medical providers, nurses, and medical assistants work collaboratively with school nurses to provide medical services to students where they are enrolled. Medical services include physical exams, laboratory tests, nutritional counseling, immunizations, sick care, management of chronic illnesses, mental health screenings, dental screenings, and sports physicals.
SBHCs eliminate waiting time at doctor’s offices and transportation to and from appointments for children and their parents. They reduce absenteeism since students do not have to leave school to receive care. They support high-need students by providing personalized medical care and counseling.
“SBHC staff know the students and the school’s culture and so can address health and wellness issues from an insider’s perspective,” said Charles Davis, Ph.D., MSN, FNP-C, a nurse at the Webutuck School District, who will transition to Open Door. “We hope to be a model for other districts in the Mid-Hudson Valley to identify the power that can occur when you have health care being provided where students spend the majority of their waking hours.”
SBHCs emerged in the 1970s in recognition of the increasing number of children and adolescents who lacked access to health care, but also needed care that was age sensitive, confidential, safe and geographically accessible. Studies have shown that SBHC’s reduce inappropriate use of emergency rooms and increase appropriate use of medical and mental health services. In addition, they have been shown to positively impact the mental health of students and reduce hospitalization rates. (Click here for a video about SBHC services)
For many students, especially those in either highly rural or urban areas, common barriers preventing access to regular health care include finding an available provider, transportation, parent/guardian ability to take time off from work, lack of insurance, and financial ability to cover co-pays. Additionally, these factors often lead to students missing school days.
“SBHCs are a truly accessible option for families – we provide help with health insurance enrollment, charge no co-pays, and cover the costs when insurance doesn’t,” said Sara Hodgdon, director of the Open Door SBHC. “Students miss minimal class time for medical visits, and teachers spend less time repeating material for those who’ve been absent. SBHCs lead to healthier students, families, the school district, and the community.”
The Open Door Family Medical Center’s School-Based Health Center Program is named the Nita M. Lowey Center for Health in Schools paying tribute to former Congresswoman Lowey, who has been a major supporter of the Open Door since the program’s beginning. “She has been instrumental in securing the funding for the launch and growth of our School-Based Health Center program over many years,” said Lindsay Farrell, president and CEO of Open Door. (Click here for a tribute video to Nita Lowey)
“I cannot believe that it has been more than 20 years since securing federal funding for the School-Based Health Center at Thomas Edison elementary school,” said Rep. Lowey. Congressman Steny H. Hoyer and Lowey had the idea to bring community health centers into local schools — creating full-service community schools that would ensure every student had access to the health care they need to succeed. “These children will lead our community for years to come and inspire me every day,” said Lowey.
Construction and renovation for the Webutuck SBHC were made possible through the support of the Foundation for Community Health in Sharon, CT, and the Office of New York State Assemblymember Didi Barrett.