PARK SLOPE — Four school-based health clinics slated to close in Brooklyn this fall will remain open despite major budget cuts, its operator announced Wednesday.
Last week, SUNY Downstate Medical Center said it would have to shutter its locations serving schools in Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill. But in letters sent to their respective principals Monday, SUNY Downstate vowed to keep the centers open for at least the next academic year.
"I write you now to assure you that we will not be making any changes to our School Based Programs as we begin the new academic year," wrote William Walsh, senior vice president of hospital affairs and managing director at SUNY Downstate.
The four school-based health clinics are among 145 that offer free-of-charge medical care to students at more than 345 schools across the five boroughs, regardless of insurance status. A certified physician oversees the sites that, at minimum, have a nurse practitioner who can administer medicine and write prescriptions for students.
State budget cuts and changes in the way funds are allocated for these centers through the State Department of Health have put the facilities at risk.
SUNY Downstate — which this summer saw its state funding grants slashed nearly 70 percent, from $669,000 to a mere $198,000 — was the first operator to announce the closures. But it is now backtracking on those plans as it seeks additional funding to support the program, Walsh added in a letter to the four principals.
"We have been tasked by our new President, Dr. Wayne J. Riley, to work with program funders and supporters to explore ways to make the programs financially viable," Walsh wrote. "Any suggestions you may have will be greatly appreciated."
The four temporarily saved locations serve Park Slope's M.S. 51; Carroll Gardens' Brooklyn New School and the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies; Boerum Hill's P.S. 38; and the Cobble Hill facility shared by the School for International Studies, Digital Arts and Cinema Technology High School, District 75’s Star Academy and Success Academy Cobble Hill.
Although still in a precarious state, news of the clinics staying open came as a momentary relief to local parents and politicians who were in the midst of mounting a campaign to save the centers.
"It's absolutely fantastic news," said Assemblyman Robert Carroll. "We are relieved that these necessary centers will remain open. The next fight of course if to get state funding in the budget, and if we’re not able to do that we'll work with SUNY Downtown to develop a solution."
Other medical centers that run school-based health clinics were also hit hard by the state budget cuts, including East Harlem’s Mount Sinai Medical Center, NYU Langone Hospital-Brooklyn and The Bronx’s Montefiore Medical Center. It is unclear how the cuts will impact those centers.