LICH-run kids clinics saved: Parent outrage forces Albany to kick in 300G to avoid closures

Daniel L. Squadron

September 08, 2009

Feature article in the Daily News

By Erin Durkin

Tuesday, September 8th 2009, 5:41 PM
Four school health clinics run by embattled Long Island College Hospital got a shot in the arm last week as state officials announced a deal to keep them open this school year.

Cash-strapped LICH closed the clinics, which serve six Brooklyn public schools, this summer to save $300,000 a year.

But after an outcry from parents and politicians alike, the state came up with the money to keep them running for the year. The state Assembly, Senate and governor's office will each chip in $100,000 from their discretionary budgets.

"At least for the next year, we're safe," said Borough President Marty Markowitz, who blasted the closures this summer. "There's no question that the [clinics] provide an extra safeguard for child health, especially in light of last year's experience with H1N1 flu."

LICH is working out the details of a possible merger with SUNY Downstate.

"The Devil's always in the details, but I do think it's on track," said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights).

"In the short term, we need to make sure that LICH doesn't start cutting off services. Saving these clinics was a big part of saving LICH," he said. "I am confident that by next year we'll have a new partner at Long Island College Hospital to help keep these clinics open."

Parents who depend on the clinics for their kids' care breathed a sigh of relief.

"I'm very relieved. I'm very, very, very, very excited," said Rachel Spivey, 51, of Crown Heights, whose daughter Modinat Animashaun, 12, regularly gets treated for severe asthma at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies' clinic.

"I was extremely worried," she said. "Now that the clinic is going to be back, I'm confident that she'll be okay. ... I know there will be instant help for her there."

Joanna Esperas, 33, of Windsor Terrace, whose two daughters use the Brooklyn New School clinic, agreed.

"It's just amazing," she said. "We need that so bad. ... So many kids don't have insurance. They depend on it."

The clinics also serve Middle School 51 in Park Slope, Public School 38 in Boerum Hill and the School for International Studies and School for Global Studies, in the same building in Cobble Hill.

"LICH thanks the elected officials and concerned citizens who were instrumental in securing New York State Department of Health assistance to operate the School Based Health Program," said Dominick Stanzione, the hospital's interim president.