Brilliant solution

About one in three students in the Webutuck Central School District has enrolled in a health care program right in their school. The staff at this in-house facility hopes to make that more than two out of three in the near future. It’s called the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) and it’s the first in Dutchess County, operating since it was set up last May.

As of last year, there were 266 such centers operating in New York state, with the bulk of them in the five boroughs of New York City.  There were more than one-quarter million New York students enrolled in schools with SBHCs in the 2018-2019 period, and of those students, about three out of four were enrolled. That tracks with the Webutuck staff’s expectations to achieve about 70% enrollment in the future.

The Webutuck district in total provides education for approximately 625 students in the towns of Amenia, Northeast, Ancram, Washington, Dover, Stanford, and the village of Millerton. The health center is located between the Eugene Brooks Intermediate School and the Webutuck High School and as a Federally Qualified Heath Center offers primary care and other services without regard to ability to pay.

As our reporter Deborah Maier illustrated last week in an article about Webutuck’s SBHC, this kind of open-door service is welcome in a community like northeast Dutchess County where health care options are limited and changing all the time. It provides an invaluable service to students, and families — and “can be a major time-, money- and academic life-saver” for parents who have to find providers who can see their children, and often take time off from work to get to appointments. It all results in a loss of academic and work time.

Maier’s report on Webutuck’s center included an interview with the commissioner of the county’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health, Livia Santiago-Rosado, an emergency physician who has practiced in the New York City area and more recently at Vassar Brothers. In the fall of 2021, then-Dutchess County Executive Marcus J. Molinaro appointed her as commissioner. Early in her tenure as commissioner, she noted the incidence of school absenteeism in some communities, and investigated reasons and remedies.

Students receive what they would get from a primary care provider, such as wellness visits and other testing, including for COVID-19, along with a number of other services.

Another aspect of this brilliant solution — and an exception to a students-only rule — allows families to take advantage of mental health services. Families can be brought in to work on whole-family issues that present in children and teens.

Students spend a large chunk of their waking hours in the school setting. Sometimes they just need a place to rest for a while, before going back to class. And that’s provided here, too.

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