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Webutuck welcomes new health clinic

The Millerton News Editorial

This past Saturday, May 14, the North East (Webutuck) Central School District (WCSD) celebrated an important moment in its history, as it celebrated the grand opening of its brand-new on-site health center.

The brainchild of Webutuck Nurse Charlie Davis, who first proposed the clinic three years ago at a Board of Education (BOE) meeting, the clinic is the first of its kind in the entire seven-county Mid-Hudson Valley Region.

Back in 2019-20, Davis researched until he found Open Door Family Medical Center, which has worked with school districts in Westchester and Putnam Counties. He said Open Door seemed like it could fit the bill for what Webutuck wanted for its on-campus clinic — including medical, dental and behavioral health services.

Best of all, Davis told the Webutuck BOE Open Door was receptive to working with the WCSD. That part was key, as New York State has regulations that require school districts to have a viable collaborator lined up in order for such programs to gain approval.

Davis was also very keen on making sure students would be guaranteed quality healthcare, and that patients would be put first. He also wanted to ensure that both the WCSD and Open Door would prioritize delivering timely and cost-effective healthcare.

Once approved, Open Door was responsible for staffing the health center, providing the office with IT services, furnishing it, equipping it and providing the medical supplies.

Webutuck was responsible for keeping a school nurse on staff in the district along with any other personnel necessary, distinct from Open Door employees. The district also had to provide enough space in which the health center could be created — separate from the existing school nurse’s office — at no cost to Open Door. Webutuck had to shoulder the cost of electrical, custodial and maintenance services to boot.

The state mandates 75% of a student population must consent to take part in a school district’s health center before agreeing to approve any on-site clinic. Thankfully, the Webutuck Warriors did so. The goal now, according to Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani, is to keep the new clinic open year-round, in keeping with school hours. Meanwhile, an infirmary space will continue to be provided by the district as an office for the school nurse.

Open Door will tend to primary healthcare needs like wellness exams, vaccinations and episodic and chronic disease management at the clinic, in addition to risk-reduction counseling services.

One thing that’s especially fantastic about this clinic for our Webutuck students, who live within a district with some of the highest poverty rates in the county, is the fact that all of its services will be offered for no out-of-pocket costs. All insurances will be accepted.

In May of 2020, the district received a $100,000 grant from the Foundation for Community Health in neighboring Sharon, Conn., to help move the project forward. That, along with support from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Sheffield, Mass., plus backing from numerous county and state leaders, including State Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106), State Senator Sue Serino (R-41) and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, all of whom were at Saturday’s ribbon-cutting, helped make the clinic become a reality.

CPL: Architecture – Engineering – Planning, from Newburgh, helped design the new space. Castellani described the impending opening at the BOE’s most recent meeting as “probably the most proud moment of my educational career.”

We can understand why, and we wish the superintendent well, along with the entire Webutuck community, as they open the doors to their new, on-campus health clinic. Congratulations on planning so wisely for something that will benefit so many at a time when taking care of our physical and mental health is more important than ever — as is starting at a young age. Well, done, Webutuck — and well done, Nurse Davis!

Here’s looking to a bright and healthy tomorrow for our young Warriors, now and into the future.

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