In many rural parts of the state, it can be hard for children and families to access health care. But one rural community in Dutchess County is hoping to change that by opening the first school-based health clinic in the Mid-Hudson region.

Just a few steps down the hall from math class, students in the Webutuck Central School District will be able to step inside a full health clinic right in their school.

"A school-based clinic is a clinic within a school that will be able to provide health services to all our students, things such as physicals, well-being visits," said Robert Farrier, the school business administrator.

What You Need To Know

  • There are 640 students in the Webutuck Central School District

  • The new health clinic will allow all students to be seen by a licensed medical provider in their own school

  • The district currently has a 20% absence rate, but school officials hope the in-school health center will change that

All 640 students of the district will have the opportunity to be seen by a licensed medical provider with parental permission without having to leave their school.

The clinic is located in the corridor connecting the high school and intermediate school.

"Normally, you would have to say, 'I have to take a day off to go get my physical.' Now, in between classes or during a study hall, you can come down here, get a school physical and be back in class within 15 or 20 minutes," said Farrier.

The clinic run by Open Door Family Medical Center features two exam rooms, an onsite mental health professional and a bilingual medical assistant, and will be able to call in prescriptions as needed.

School officials say such a clinic is vital in the rural part of Dutchess County, where getting to a doctor’s appointment can be difficult, or mean a parent would have to take time off work.

"Availability of health care is key in this part of the county," said Farrier. "A student may have a doctor, but the ability to get to a doctor is more challenging, or parents not being able to drive. Or, if they’re an hourly employee, they may not be able to take time off to go to the doctor. So many times, we may see a student who is ill and just stays home and maybe not properly treat it when that could have been eliminated in a two-day absence. Now, it turns into a one- or two-week absence."

Right now, the district has a 20% absentee rate. It hopes the clinic will help keep kids in school.

"The impact that were hoping for, and the research shows, is that attendance will be much better. Our students will not be missing school. They'll be in school, their scores will go up," Webutuck Superintendent of Schools Raymond Castellani said.

According to the Children’s Health Fund, about 20 million children nationwide — 28% of all children — face barriers to accessing basic health care.

Webutuck school officials hope its clinic will help increase health care access for students in this community and serve as an example for others.

"It's good to be the first. I always say I like to drive the bus, and if our colleagues in our local community can copy us and take it to the next level for them, it benefits children and that’s why we're here, to benefit children," said Castellani.

The construction of the school-based clinic was funded, in part, by donations from organizations like the Foundation for Community Health, local leaders and federal stimulus funds.