School reform is a contentious matter in NYC, but there’s wide agreement that students fare better academically when schools provide more services on-site.
That includes after-school programs, free breakfast and lunch, and school-based health clinics. Yet four of those clinics in Brooklyn are due to close because of state funding cuts.
The clinics are run by SUNY Downstate Medical Center, which told DNAinfo.com the state plans to cut the program’s funding by about 70 percent. The clinics slated to shut down are at MS 51 in Park Slope, PS 38 in Boerum Hill, the Brooklyn New School and the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies in Carroll Gardens, and the campus shared by the Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School, Star Academy, Boerum Hill School for International Studies and Success Academy Cobble Hill.
There are nearly 150 school-based clinics that serve about 350 schools. They are often overseen by a physician, and offer services like strep testing, vaccinations and prescriptions.
Parents and staff at the affected schools and local officials have organized a petition campaign to keep the clinics open.
My son attended the Brooklyn New School and will begin MS 51 next month. I enjoyed the convenience of having medical care at the school. And the clinics benefit everyone, particularly low-income families. The clinics are free of charge, and offer care many families might not be able to get because of work schedules or lack of insurance.
In high school, the clinics offer contraception, and at least one study has found that they’ve helped reduce teen pregnancy. The clinics also offer critical mental health counseling. According to the New York School-Based Health Alliance, the clinics help improve students’ attendance and boost their chances of finishing school. Black male students are three times more likely to graduate if they attend a school with a clinic on premises, according to the nonprofit advocacy group.
State budget figures suggest the four clinics aren’t the only ones likely to close. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Health Department need to hear from constituents. We want them to protect school-based health services in NYC.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.