Richfield Springs Central School expects to have a school-based health center in place by September 2014, thanks to the efforts of Bassett Healthcare and state Sen. James Seward.
Seward was at the school Friday morning to announce that the 2013 - 2014 state budget includes $150,000 to establish a Bassett Healthcare Network school-based health center at the school.
“School-based health centers fill a great void in rural areas like those I serve,” said Seward, R - Oneonta. He pointed out that parents may not be able to take their children to a medical office, especially single parents who work. Some may lack insurance. Living in a rural area can mean having to travel a greater distance to receive needed health care.
Having a school-based center is “today's equivalent to a house call,” he said, adding if a child receives early care for a health problem, more serious health concerns and consequences can often be avoided.
“Bassett Healthcare has developed a successful operating model, the largest rural SBH program in New York state, and expanding services to Richfield Springs Central School will mean healthier children and added peace of mind for parents who choose to utilize the care option,” said Seward.
He said the district contacted him several months ago about the need for the center. As a member of the Senate Health Committee, he said, he was able to the advance the appropriation, which was included in the recently adopted state budget.
“The school-based health care model works very well,” said Dr. Chris Kjolhede, director of the Bassett Healthcare Network School-Based Health Program. “It brings health care to places where it's harder for kids to get the care they need.”
He said Bassett had been talking with administrators at Richfield Springs Central School for several years about bringing a center to the school.
“Research shows school-based health care results in positive outcomes, including lower absenteeism and fewer unnecessary hospitalizations,” said Kjolhede. “This means the students are spending more time learning in the classroom. It's also better for students with chronic conditions like asthma and ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) because we're better able to manage those conditions by being where the students are, in the school.”
In addition to medical care, he expects to have mental health services at the school and hopes to see preventive oral and dentistry care added as well.
Richfield Springs School Superintendent Robert Barraco thanked the staff, Bassett and Seward, saying he was pleased the senator had recognized the importance of school-based care to the district. “This has been a long time in coming,” he said. “We've been at this since 2007.”
Seward said the $150,000 in state funding would provide about half of the money needed to establish a school-based health program at Richfield Springs Central School. Once the remainder of the funding is secured, Bassett will apply for state approval of the program and recruit providers.
Page 2 of 2 - Barraco said there are two or three spaces in the school that are being considered to provide space for the school-based health center. As for the additional funding needed for the program, he said, school officials are working with Bassett to leverage the funds. The district also has a trust fund that may supplement the other funds.
Kjolhede said the state Department of Health has a staff ratio for school-based centers based on enrollment. Plans call for having a nurse practitioner or physician assistant in the center each school day with a physician available for consultation and coming in on a regular basis. Mental health care would also be available on a daily basis, he said.
Bassett's school-based health program currently provides primary, dental and mental health care to nearly 7,500 students in 19 schools in four counties: Otsego, Delaware, Chenango and Schoharie. No family pays out-of-pocket for services provided by the school-based centers. If the student has insurance, the center will bill the student's health insurance for the services provided and may help the student enroll in Child Health Plus or Medicaid.
For more information about Bassett's school-based health program, visit www.bassett.org.