School-based health centers can be an effective alternative for providing health care to school-age children who lack access in a traditional setting, providing primary care, mental health, dental, preventive care and chronic disease management.
In 2009 we commissioned a report by the New York State Coalition for School Based Health Centers to highlight the history, benefits and current status of school-based health centers around New York State. We also asked the Coalition to make recommendations for how we could advance the school health center model in our regions. These recommendations centered on engaging school districts about the value of school-based health centers and supporting districts in setting up or expanding them.
During the first phase of the program, the Coalition engaged high-need districts in Buffalo and Syracuse and identified those interested in opening school-based health centers. The Coalition also identified community health centers, hospitals and mental health providers that were potential partners. During the second phase, the Coalition worked with districts to design appropriate readiness assessment plans.
While both cities experienced challenges in developing and implementing their program objectives, they experienced successes as well. Buffalo Public Schools developed a three-year comprehensive student support plan and established the Coordinating Council on Safe, Healthy and Supportive Learning Environments. The Syracuse City School District established a Wellness Committee in each building, and conducted an assessment of comprehensive school health needs within each school building.