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School-based health clinics shuttered due to SUNY Downstate budget woes

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According to a letter from operator SUNY Downstate, five school-based health clinics serving 10 schools in Brooklyn closed last month because of budget constraints.

Now, families are rallying to try and save the facilities.

City officials were “disappointed” with SUNY Downstate’s move to close the clinics on July 1, but said they will ensure the five campuses have school nurses in September. Families remain worried about the gap in health care for their community. More than 8,500 have signed on to a campaign calling for SUNY Downstate to keep the clinics open at least until a partnership with another hospital can be established.

The clinics provide a higher level of care than a traditional school nurse. Their pediatric nurse practitioners and physician assistants can administer medication and write prescriptions. They provide immunizations, blood tests, and other preventive or urgent care that children typically receive at a pediatrician’s office.

The clinics also offer adolescent health education and contraception, as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases — helpful services for teens who might not want to discuss such issues with a family doctor. They also offer mental health care and drug abuse treatment.

The services are offered for free regardless of insurance status, and for many parents who can’t take off from work for medical visits, they are a lifeline for their children’s health care.

Officials from the city’s health and education departments, did not say whether another operator would take over the clinics, but said in a statement: “For the time being, the city will place school nurses in each of the buildings affected starting in September to ensure families are connected to care.”

New York City schools have long faced a school nurse shortage. There were 579 vacancies for permanent school nurses as of June, according to figures from the United Federation of Teachers, the city’s teachers union.

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