Brooklyn officials protest state budget cuts to school health clinics
Petition: Centers in Brooklyn help keep disadvantaged kids healthy
The state is poised to reduce funds for a program that helps keep disadvantaged children healthy, reduces school absenteeism — and actually saves the state money.
School-based health centers (SBHC), which operate like doctor’s offices within schools, have been providing primary health care and first aid to New York City public school students for 25 years.
Now, however, the state Department of Health (DOH) has proposed changing how these centers are reimbursed. Services will be cut at many of the centers, creating instability, officials said.
There are 145 SBHCs serving over 345 schools across NYC.
Brooklyn officials including state Sen. Daniel Squadron, Councilmember Brad Lander and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon have launched a petition to oppose the cuts to schools in their districts, which include Central and Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill and Park Slope.
These schools include the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, Brooklyn School for Global Studies, the School for International Studies and others.
The petition at Change.org titled “Tell Governor Cuomo and the NYS DOH: Save New York’s School-Based Health Centers” received more than 1,000 signatures by Friday.
‘This is not the time for the state to shirk its responsibility’
“School-based health centers bring better healthcare into schools for kids who need it most,” Squadron said in a statement. “With state budget cuts and proposed reimbursement changes putting the centers at risk, the state Department of Health must ensure they remain open.”
Councilmember Lander said he was “deeply concerned” about the loss of funding for the centers.
“These school-based health centers are critical safety-net providers for students in our local public schools and provide greatly needed treatment to every child that enters their doors, regardless of their ability to pay,” he said.
“We simply cannot allow our children to go without the basic health care they need to participate successfully in school,” added Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. “Unfortunately, the proposed changes to the funding methodology for the health centers will result in budget cuts that will lead to reduced services and create instability at the centers. With too much uncertainty on the federal level, this is not the time for the state to shirk its responsibility to our most vulnerable children.”
Centers actually save the state money
Mainly located in areas with limited access to healthcare, the centers help students manage their illnesses at school and decrease absenteeism and trips to the emergency room, according to Department of Education (DOE) research.
And according to an analysis of multiple cost-benefit studies published in AJPM (American Journal of Preventative Medicine), SBHCs save the state money. The study concluded, “The economic benefit of SBHCs exceeds the intervention operating cost. Further, SBHCs result in net savings to Medicaid.”
SUNY Downstate Medical Center operates four SCHCs serving seven schools the officials’ districts, according to DOE. (Some were formerly operated by the now-closed Long Island College Hospital, or LICH.)
These include a center serving P.S. 013 and Achievement First East New York Charter School on the Roberto Clemente Campus at 557 Pennsylvania Ave.; a center serving Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (P.S. 146) on the M.S. 142 Stranahan Campus at 610 Henry St.; the Brooklyn School for Global Studies and the School for International Studies on the M.S. 293 campus; P.S. 038 The Pacific School at 450 Pacific St.; and William Alexander Junior High School 051 at 350 Fifth Ave.
Additional Brooklyn SBHCs are operated by other sponsors, including the Bedford-Stuyvesant Family Health Center, which operates four SBHCs serving seven schools in the Bed-Stuy area, and the East New York Diagnostic and Treatment Center, which operates two clinics serving five schools.
Why they signed
Many of the petition’s 1,000 signers explain why they added their names.
“SBHCs are critical to our families,” write Brooklyn resident Marie Prendergast.
“How shameful to be attempting to shortchange children!” wrote Joseph Lalli of the Bronx.
“I am an Assistant Principal at P.S. 169 in Sunset Park,” write Joanna Cohen. “We have a SBHC in my school, and it provides critical medical services to our students, many of whom do not have a pediatrician — or whose parents do not have time to take them to the doctor when they are sick. Please do not cut funding for this necessary service.”
Sonia Calderon, of Manhattan, wrote, “I’m signing this because I have three children in public schools. It puts my mind at ease that there are medical personal on school grounds that can care for my child if or when needed.”
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