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Hometown Health to Open Clinics Inside Two Schenectady Schools

By Zachary Matson, The Daily Gazette, October 24, 2015

SCHENECTADY — Students at Mont Pleasant Middle School and Schenectady High School will soon be able to get their primary care, immunizations and urgent treatment without ever leaving school.

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Hometown Health Centers, a nonprofit, federally approved health center based in Schenectady, is set to open new school-based health centers at the two Schenectady schools — the first such school health centers in the county, Hometown CEO Joe Gambino said Friday.

After parents enroll their kids in the school health centers, Gambino said, they will have access to all the medical care that would be found at a regular health center or primary care office.

“My business is all about access. The more we can provide access for children and adults in need, the better off we are,” Gambino said. “Anything a child could or would get at a primary health center or doctor’s office, they can get done at the school.”

Schenectady school officials were also excited about the new health centers, pointing to a broader effort to provide more community services in the schools. The Schenectady school board approved a lease agreement with Hometown Health on Wednesday night.

Superintendent Laurence Spring said the district was looking for a way to bring more health care access to elementary-age kids that most need it. District officials had originally hoped to open the health center at Hamilton Elementary School, but the space didn’t work out. The district will arrange to transport Hamilton kids to Mont Pleasant for care.

Spring envisions schools that provide families access to services that go well beyond traditional schooling — such as physical health care, mental health care, access to social services and more.

“I think about our schools becoming a single point of access for families. … ” Spring said. “How many other services can we collocate at the school to make not just a place parents go to drop their kids off? I want parents to feel the schools have other services to provide them.”

Each of the school health centers will be around 1,500 square feet, Gambino said, and will mirror school hours. The centers will be staffed by nurse practitioners who are overseen by a physician who will always be accessible and make occasional visits to the centers.

Hometown Health received $300,000 from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration to make the facility improvements for the centers.

The health centers are currently under construction, and Gambino and Spring said they should be set to open by the beginning of the next school year at the latest. Each was optimistic they could open sooner in the new year.

Spring also said he hoped the centers could eventually be opened during after-school hours to serve parents and siblings of students, but the details are yet to be hashed out and will need to meet state education and health rules.

Families must enroll their children in the school health center before receiving care and treatment there — an effort the schools and Hometown Health plan to push when the centers near completion.

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