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Longwood High School seeks state-licensed free health clinic

District Superintendent Dr. Michael Lonergan, left, Longwood High

District Superintendent Dr. Michael Lonergan, left, Longwood High School Principal Dr. Maria Castro and a pediatric nurse practitioner, who is examining a student in the medical center created at the high school for the student in Middle Island on Dec. 3, 2014. Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

A health clinic licensed by New York State could open early next year in Longwood High School, district officials said.

If approved by the New York State Department of Health, the clinic would be one of about 220 school-based health facilities in the state, and one of four on Long Island. It would be run by Middle Island-based Just Kids Diagnostic and Treatment Center.

A physician and two nurse practitioners would rotate days diagnosing, treating and, in some cases, referring students without medical care or a family doctor to the appropriate facility or doctor, officials said.

Longwood Central School District Superintendent Michael Lonergan said he hopes the state will approve the clinic by early next year.

"This is important for students whose parents can't afford medical care," he said.

Just Kids hopes the program will encourage students who otherwise wouldn't go to classes when not feeling well, said Dr. Virginia Barry, a consultant with Just Kids.

"Kids become more conscious of their health [when] they have contact with medical professionals who can talk to people and help with adolescent issues," said Barry, who believes the program will lower dropout rates.

Longwood would join Roosevelt and Hempstead high schools, along with Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Bellport, as the only schools on Long Island with such a facility, said Sarah Murphy, executive director of New York State Coalition for School-Based Health Centers.

While the Longwood school district said it does not know the exact number of students without health insurance, it said roughly 1,000 of the 2,700 students at the high school are enrolled in federally subsidized free lunch programs.

In preparation for opening the clinic, the nursing office in the high school has been expanded and two unoccupied offices were cleaned out for examination rooms, school officials said.

Lonergan said the medical center was supposed to open in October but was delayed. He said state Health Department officials, tasked with conducting an inspection and issuing a permit, have been busy statewide on other matters.

He said the district and Just Kids have discussed the health center for the past few years. "They brought it to us," the superintendent said, adding that there is no cost to the district.

Medical staff will work with school nurses to assist with care, including diagnosis of typical health care issues such as strep throat and ear infections. Doctors and nurse practitioners can prescribe medications.

Only students lacking health insurance will be seen, but they must have parental consent and a signed permission form. All services are confidential, school officials said.

There is no charge to students or their families for medical assistance provided.

The staff will also help families of uninsured children apply for health coverage through New York State's Child Health Plus, Medicaid or other sources.

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