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New York Urged To Develop School Health Clinics

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A new report by an independent research group urges New York State lawmakers to allocate $14- million over the next three years for the development of health clinics in public schools across the state.

Despite the existence of more than 100 such clinics in New York preschools and elementary and secondary schools, "too many of the state's children and youth are not getting health-care service they desperately need," writes Constancia Warren, the author of "Improving Students' Access to Health Care: School-Based Clinics."

Released Nov. 10, the report was prepared for the Center for Public Advocacy Research Inc., a nonprofit organization based in New York City that conducts and disseminates research on public-policy issues.

Part of the cause of poor health care, Ms. Warren writes, is the inadequacy of public and private health-insurance coverage for many children.

Despite a 29 percent increase between 1980 to 1984 in the number of children and families living in poverty in the state, 87,000 fewer New York children were covered by Medicaid, the government-sponsored insurance system for the poor, during those years, according to the report. And in 1984, it says, an estimated 2.5 million state residents had neither public nor private health insurance.

The report notes that barriers to adequate health care are greatest in rural areas of the state, where children are generally less healthy than their urban counterparts and health services are scarce.

"School-based health clinics have proven to be a cost-effective delivery model for providing health-care services, costing only between $50 and $150 per student per year," it states.

It adds that many of the "medically underserved" children in need of such clinics are concentrated in some 900 of the state's 3,902 schools. The recommended $14-million appropriation would help fund clinic projects in half of those schools.

Controversy over some of the clinics already operating in New York schools erupted last year when it was revealed that a handful of the high-school clinics run by the New York City Public Schools had been distributing contraceptives to students. (See Education Week, June 24, 1987.)

In her report, Ms. Warren suggests that similar conflicts might be avoided by letting local communities determine the scope of services to be provided at school clinics.

Her group strongly recommends, however, that "whatever mechanism is chosen to provide care, whether direct service or referral to nearby providers, services to address the reproductive health-care needs of the students not be avoided for fear of controversy."

Copies of the report can be obtained for $10 each by writing the Center for Public Advocacy Research Inc., 12 West 37th St., New York, N.Y. 10018, or by calling the center at (212) 564-9220.--dv

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