Finger Lakes Community Health has approached the Penn Yan Central School Board of Education and Superintendent Howard Dennis with information about opening a school-based health center.

At the Sept. 18 Board of Education meeting, Finger Lakes Health CEO Mary Zelazny said, “We know that it is very challenging to get children in for their care, especially mental health care. We’re trying to find solutions.”

She said a health center in the school district could be housed in the elementary school’s nursing office to provide on-site medical, mental health, and/or oral health services that promote the health and educational success of school-aged children.

Services provided would be determined through the local collaboration between the school and Finger Lakes Community Health. Zelazny says input from parents will be a critical element in the planning.

Services could be provided at no cost, but the health center would be able to bill insurances.

Regulations will require health center staff to be on site whenever school is in session. That staff could be a physician, nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or a medical or mental health assistant, said Zelazny, who adds that a collaborating mental health provider must provide a minimum of four hours of on-site supervision to the mental health provider.

Zelazny said any child in the school district would be eligible for services, and they can retain their own family physician. The school-based provider will be required to notify the family physician of the child’s care and establish a plan for communication.

Dennis told the board of education members the Finger Lakes Community Health team have been working very well with the school staff.

If the board of education approves the plan, the Finger Lakes Health team will begin the process of applying for the necessary approval from the State Department of Health.