Webutuck opens first school based health clinic in region
WEBUTUCK — The North East (Webutuck) Central School District’s passionate planning, organizing and fundraising to make its in-school based health clinic — the very first in the multi-county Hudson Valley region — a reality was rewarded Saturday morning, May 14. That’s when members of the local community gathered with state, county and local lawmakers along with school personnel and those in the health care industry to celebrate the site’s grand opening.
Webutuck Nurse Charlie Davis first proposed the clinic three years ago. He presented research on in-school based health centers to the Webutuck Board of Education (BOE) in October 2019; by the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, he had successfully found a viable collaborator in Open Door Family Medical Centers, which was willing to set up proposed health center.
Between January and March 2020, the Webutuck district met with countless state and county officials to garner support, and reached out to the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Sheffield, Mass., and The Foundation for Community Health (FCH) in Sharon, Conn., for assistance. By early May, Webutuck was awarded a $100,000 grant from the FCH for the health clinic.
The district later engaged the firm CPL: Architecture — Engineering — Planning, from Newburgh, to develop blueprints and specifications to build the clinic on campus where the previous nurse’s office was.
At long last, Webutuck was able to celebrate the closing stage of its three-year project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that coincided with the Webutuck PTA’s annual Community Day celebration this past Saturday.
As they waited for the ceremony to commence at 11:15 a.m., dignitaries from all levels of government mingled with community members, BOE members, school staff and administrators and other key players in the clinic’s inception. All the while they watched Community Day festivities from the sidelines.
Thanking everyone for attending on a beautiful Saturday, Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani recognized many who helped make the clinic a reality. He shared some statistics, outlining the challenges of providing healthcare for children — especially in the last few years with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also underscored the value of making sure students are healthy so they can focus on their education.
Castellani recalled when Davis first proposed the clinic three years ago, noting “the passion and excitement in his proposal was evident and contagious.”
Another person who was instrumental in the clinic succeeding, Castellani said, was Webutuck Business Administrator Robert Farrier. Castellani stressed the district wanted to ensure the health clinic was installed with no out-of-pocket costs.
“Our school-based health clinic will make going to the doctor as simple as walking down the hallway,” he said, listing the many benefits of having an on-site health clinic.
Saying it should be a game changer for district families, Castellani said he was “absolutely thrilled” to be able to provide such services to students and local families, thanking everyone for “sharing this special day.”
One by one, the dignitaries present spoke — including State Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106), State Senator Sue Serino (R-41) and Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro. They shared their excitement about the health clinic. Many praised Davis for his passion, his commitment to the community’s health and his determination to see this project through.
Introducing Nancy Heaton from the FCH, Castellani said its assistance and friendship were integral in the project.
“We have found that through collaboration, projects we support are sustainable and the community benefits from them,” Heaton said, adding the new clinic is the type of program that can be successful and move forward.
Andrea Ruggiero from Open Door Family Medical Center shared how thrilled the center is to be part of the Webutuck district.
“We feel right at home — I think that’s the best way to say it,” she said. “It’s been a long time coming — three years in the making… We want to do this with you and for you, and we look forward to being part of the community.”
Before the ribbon-cutting, Castellani announced that details about the health clinic will be sent out to Webutuck families. He then invited Davis to speak about the journey that led everyone to that moment.
Though humbled by everyone’s praise, Davis emphasized the health clinic was a team effort.
“I want to identify how critically important it is that this is a team that made this happen,” Davis said. “It’s an enormous team effort that has brought this important piece of critical healthcare to the Webutuck community.”
Sharing the scissors with Castellani, Davis and the superintendent cut the ribbon to signal the health clinic’s opening. Castellani then invited everyone to tour the new health clinic and see how students will be cared for now and into the future.