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Bassett's school health program reaches 30 years

Original article published in the Daily Star.

Bassett Healthcare Network announced last month it is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its School-Based Health program.

According to a media release, the first site opened in 1992 at the Delaware Academy Central School in Delhi. It marked the first collaboration between Bassett and a school district. Since then, Bassett’s SBH program has expanded to 21 sites in 17 school districts across four counties. More than 7,000 children are enrolled across the system, and Delhi’s site alone conducts between 2,000 and 2,500 visits per year, the release said

The program is now the largest rural school-based health program in New York state, the release said. The program “ensures easy access within schools to high-quality health care services for students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade,” according to the release. School-based health program services are available to all students regardless of income.

According to the release, many children in rural central New York live at or below the poverty level in communities where health care is not available. Children are among those least likely to receive routine health care, least likely to be insured and most likely to require emergency medical service.

Recognizing a gap in health care coverage, Bassett built its school-based health program to deliver primary health services to as many students as possible. “Being the first line of defense against avoidable hospital admissions, emergency room, and acute care visits, Bassett’s SBH centers provide consistent care for students and ensure that chronic issues are cared for properly,” the release said.

“Bassett’s SBH model offers a unique opportunity for communities and school districts to meet the health needs of their underserved students by achieving the same vision — that all children will be healthy and ready to learn,” said Dr. Chris Kjolhede, co-director of the program and a Foundation board member. “Generous gifts help to keep the program rolling and innovative. For example, dental and behavioral health are now part of the program, bringing these essential services into our schools to serve children in need.”

The school-based health centers also use telemedicine. “Bassett’s ongoing expansion of its telemedicine services across our rural area have made a tremendous and positive impact on our ability to serve regional students during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jane Hamilton, a registered nurse and Basset’s school-based health practice manager.

“Now telemedicine is an essential complement to in-person SBH program services. Students utilize video visits to access a variety of pediatric specialties,” Hamilton said. “This includes medication follow-ups for ADHD or depression; concussion clearance by a pediatrician for sports; ongoing management of chronic illnesses such as asthma; and psychotherapy provided by mental health clinicians.”

“We are extremely proud of our role in helping the children of our region achieve and maintain good health,” Kjolhede said. “Our outstanding, dedicated staff coupled with generous contributions and grants make this all possible. We are still growing, just like the kids we serve.”

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