Health centers backed for two Groton schools near sub base

Hartford — Local legislators and school officials testified Friday in support of opening health centers at two Groton elementary schools that serve the children of sailors stationed at the Naval Submarine Base.

"The services provided by the school-based health center will greatly assist these children whose lives are frequently disrupted due to military transfers," said Principal Monica S. Franzone of Mary Morrisson Elementary School in Groton, who read a statement from Groton Superintendent Michael Graner to the General Assembly's Public Health Committee.

Under the bill, the health centers would be opened at Mary Morrisson, where 61 percent of the students are from military families, and Pleasant Valley, where 33 percent of the students are from military families. They would join health centers at five other Groton schools: Claude Chester Elementary School, Cutler Middle School, West Side Middle School, Catherine Kolnaski Magnet School and Robert E. Fitch High School.

There are at least 75 school-based health centers in Connecticut that provide medical and behavioral health services to about 44,000 students, according to the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers. Last year, the state appropriated $25.3 million for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy did not reduce the funding in his recent budget revision proposal for fiscal year 2015.

State Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton, said she was told that existing school-based health centers had not spent all of the money assigned to them. So she and state Sen. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said they believed there was $650,000 available for two school-based health centers in Groton and three in East Hartford.

"The lives of those military families are frequently disrupted when a parent is deployed on active military duty, and they depend on school-based health centers to care for their children," Wright said.

Maynard thanked the committee for raising the bill and said he stood in solidarity with the community that would benefit from these two health centers.

State Sen. Terry Gerratana, D-New Britain, co-chairman of the committee, said she agreed that school-based health centers were essential to providing an "open portal" for children to access health professionals.

Richard Calvert, the chief operating officer for the Child & Family Agency of Southeastern Connecticut, said the centers were needed because the primary care practices in the region were saturated and many parents had to wait a long time for new patient appointments. In some cases, the child was delayed from entering school because the parent could not get the child their immunizations, he said. Single parents also struggled with taking time off work to take their children to the doctor, he said.

Child & Family Agency manages 18 centers in New London, Groton, Norwich, Waterford and Stonington. The state Department of Public Health sends the funds to the agency and the agency pays the nurse practitioners and clinicians who work at the centers, Calvert said.

Calvert said $200,000 would be for the Groton schools and would cover salaries and supplies, from cotton swabs to educational materials. Two full-time mental health clinicians would be hired, one for each school, and one full-time nurse practitioner would work half-time at each school.


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