Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, President & CEO, contributes a regular column to The Freeman's Journal, Hometown Oneonta, and AllOtsego.com. The piece below was published on Thanksgiving Day in November 23, 2023 editions.
Dear Friends, Neighbors, and Colleagues,
Next month, Bassett Healthcare Network is opening its 22nd School-Based Health Center at Cherry Valley–Springfield Central School. Bassett will now serve families in 18 school districts across four counties. In this season of counting blessings and expressing thanks, I want to share my gratitude for our amazing school-based health program – the largest rural school-based health program in New York State and a service that is close to my heart.
For those who are unfamiliar with the program—which just celebrated its 30th anniversary—Bassett's school-based health centers are pediatric clinics within school buildings that provide comprehensive care to children in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade at no cost to families. A patient's only requirement for enrollment is being a registered student in the district. With a simple hall pass, kids receive medical care, preventive and restorative dental care, mental healthcare, nutrition counseling, some types of subspecialty care using telehealth (like pulmonology), and on-site amenities to draw laboratory tests. In rural areas, where homes and workplaces are spread out over a wide geographic area, transportation and travel time can be barriers to care. By operating full clinics in schools, students can attend all their important health appointments with minimal interruption to their academics—or their parents' work schedules.
Bassett's program offers these services without any out-of-pocket costs to families. In New York State, nearly one in five children live at or below the poverty level. These children are among those least likely to receive routine healthcare, least likely to be insured, and most likely to require emergency medical services. If a student receives services at a school-based health center, Bassett bills their insurance, but thanks to grants and private donations, insurance copays and additional fees are covered. Bassett's community navigators are also available to connect families with coverage plans that their families may be eligible for, like Child Health Plus.
School-based health centers provide essential healthcare to children and families, teaching young people how to be their own health advocates, establishing good habits early, and building habits and skills that will benefit students for a lifetime. In short, we are building the next generation of healthy community members – and nothing could be more important.
Like all our school-based health centers, Bassett's new location at Cherry Valley–Springfield Central School is a wonderful, welcoming space ready to provide safe, private, comfortable care to students. I am so grateful to our incredible partners and donors – including Ginny Joslin-Hastings – who have made our newest location possible. I would also like to thank Bassett's amazing School-Based Health team, including Jane Hamilton, RN, Bassett's School-Based Health Practice Manager; Dr. Chris Kjolhede, Dr. Kerri LeBlanc, and Dr. William Fredette, Bassett's School-Based Health Co-Directors and wonderful pediatricians; Tammy Loucks, Bassett's School-Based Health Operations Manager; and, of course, countless other people – clinicians, nurses, counselors, dental staff, office staff, Friends of Bassett, school administrators, teachers, parents, and others – who are dedicated to this program's success and to the health and wellbeing of our children.
Finally, I understand from our Bassett team that a HUGE thanks is due to the Cherry Valley-Springfield Administration—in particular TheriJo Snyder their Superintendent and Dave Mayton their Director of Facilities. If you are interested in learning more about Bassett's School-Based Health Program and how you can support it, visit www.friendsofbassett.org.
To date, more than 7,000 students are enrolled in Bassett's School-Based Health Centers across our region – and that number is growing. What a wonderful reason to give thanks.
Wishing you and your family a happy and healthy holiday,
Dr. Tommy Ibrahim
President & CEO
Bassett Healthcare Network