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Webutuck awarded $100K for health clinic on campus

WEBUTUCK — Amid the current global health crisis, the North East (Webutuck) Central School District was able to progress with its plans for an in-school based health clinic by securing a $100,000 grant from the Foundation for Community Health, a private, not-for-profit foundation in Sharon, Conn., focused on improving the health and well-being of the residents of the Harlem Valley and the northwest corner of Connecticut through grants, research, technical assistance and advocacy.

The idea for establishing the clinic at Webutuck was first proposed last spring when Charles Davis, a nurse at Eugene Brooks Intermediate School, approached Webutuck Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani to discuss the benefits of such a facility. Davis said students would benefit from having their primary healthcare needs taken care of with no out-of-pocket expenses. 

If approved, Webutuck would be the first school district in the Harlem Valley to have an in-school based health clinic in place. To date, the Pine Plains Central School District, the Millbrook Central School District and the Dover Union Free School District are all without their own health clinics on campus. 

Impressed by the idea, Castellani asked Davis to develop a proposal to present to the Webutuck Board of Education (BOE). While the district was on summer vacation, Davis spent the time conducting additional research into in-school based health centers, during which time he learned that in order to offer such a program, school districts are required under state regulations to have a viable collaborator. By the start of the 2019-20 school year, he had found such a collaborator in Open Door Family Medical Center. 

Davis proposed the idea to the BOE this past September, which shared Castellani’s enthusiasm at the prospect of being able to offer immediate, accessible healthcare to students. The BOE encouraged Davis to return with a proposal. He did so in October, offering options for Open Door as the district’s healthcare collaborator. Davis, Castellani and Webutuck Business Administrator Robert Farrier then secured Open Door as the healthcare provider of the district’s proposed in-school based health center.

Between January and March, the school district met with State Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106), State Senator Sue Serino (R-41), U.S. Rep. Antonio Delgado (NY D-19) and Dutchess County Legislator Gregg Pulver (R-19) in an effort to garner support for the proposal. These meetings would later lead the district to reach out to the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in Sheffield, Mass., and then to the Foundation for Community Health.

With the district’s permission to move forward in applying for a grant, Webutuck Director of Student Services/Curriculum and Instruction Jennifer Eraca said she, Davis and Farrier completed a nearly 25-page grant application and submitted it to the Foundation for Community Health on Wednesday, April 15. She explained that the grant will allow for the construction and space modification for the health center’s footprint on the Webutuck campus, which will meet the requirements set forth by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and the New York State Department of Health. 

By Monday, May 4, the Foundation for Community Health awarded Webutuck a $100,000 grant at its Board of Directors meeting; it notified the school district on Wednesday, May 6.

Eraca shared the news about the grant with the BOE at its virtual meeting on Monday, May 11. Overjoyed, she said she’s now working on thank you notes to send out to the district’s supporters.

“It’s exciting and it’s a game changer for the district,” Eraca said.

Farrier announced that Webutuck has engaged CPL: Architecture – Engineering – Planning from Newburgh, to develop blueprints and specifications according to what Open Door Family Medical Center has seen at other in-school based health clinics in addition to the requirements from NYSED. At this time, Farrier said the blueprints are being developed and will be sent to NYSED for approval.

Thanking the Foundation for Community Health for the grant, Castellani remarked on a later date that the foundation’s grant to Webutuck “is something that is going to pay huge dividends for students in our community in regards to both physical and mental health.

“This would be a difficult endeavor without their support,” Castellani added. “I would like to thank Nurse Charlie, Dr. Eraca and Mr. Farrier for their hard work in getting that grant approved.”

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