Health + Hospitals to shutter all its school clinics

BY MAYA KAUFMAN | 08/15/2023 12:30 PM EDT


NEW YORK — NYC Health + Hospitals plans to close its network of eight school-based health centers on Aug. 31, pending state approval.

The centers are located in public schools in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan and provide primary care and mental health services to students enrolled in those schools at no out-of-pocket cost, supplementing the care provided by the Department of Education’s own school nurses.

The closures, reported here for the first time, cap off the municipal health system’s yearslong shift away from the school-based clinic model as it shores up its standalone Gotham Health primary and preventive care centers. Health + Hospitals officials said its centers were scarcely used due to the overlap in services with school nurses, with an average daily number of visits in the single digits.

Nurse practitioners and other staff who had been working at the clinics will be transferred to nearby Gotham Health locations, where they will be able to help five to 10 times as many children, Health + Hospitals spokesperson Chris Miller said.

“NYC Health + Hospitals is committed to serving all New Yorkers, including students, and we are fortunate that our community-based Gotham Health sites can serve kids and their families with a wider range of services and resources,” Miller said in a statement. “This shift maximizes our nurse’s time and expertise, while preserving and enhancing the health care services our students need.”

Miller said the closures are unrelated to Mayor Eric Adams’ mandated budget cuts.

Sarah Murphy, executive director of the New York School-Based Health Alliance, said the closures are evidence of a need for additional state funding and higher Medicaid rates for the services the facilities provide.

“We are always dismayed upon hearing news that centers will close and children will lose health care services due to a lack of funding,” she said.

Context: Health + Hospitals isn’t the only health care organization pulling back on school-based health centers. The state Department of Health has received 24 requests to close school-based health centers since last year, outpacing the 19 applications in that time to establish new ones, spokesperson Monica Pomeroy said.

Last year SUNY Downstate shuttered five school-based clinics serving 10 schools in Brooklyn due to budget constraints, Chalkbeat New York reported.

There were 252 school-based health centers operating statewide as of April, including 146 in New York City, according to the most recent available state data.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul has committed millions of dollars in state funding to expand school-based mental health centers to help students recover from trauma associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

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