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WALTON REPORTER MAY 6, 1998, page 1


By David Gorton

HANCOCK - Hancock central School may soon be the site of a Bassett Hospital school-based clinic, if the school and Bassett can agree to the details.

The clinic is being funded with $40,000 secured by Senator Charles D. Cook in this year's state budget, and according to Cook, the clinic is something badly needed in Hancock.

"Hancock has one of the largest concentrations of low-income families in the county," Cook said. "One of the best ways to get health care to low-income people is through these clinics."

Cook said he called school Superintendent Richard Dillon earlier this year to ask him if he would be interested in the program.

Dillon said when he talked with Cook he replied that he would "always be interested in taking a look at providing additional services to Hancock students.

"To be honest, I didn't bring it to the school board's attention at the time because we had no details available," Dillon said.

Cook said the clinic will prove beneficial for students in Hancock. "The real key to these clinics is wellness.

"Students who normally wouldn't have access to health care will be able to see a practical nurse who will be able to perform the functions there she would normally perform at the hospital," Cook said.

Athlete physicals and similar examinations would be performed at the clinic, and would be a "first-step" in giving access to health care.

If examinations uncovered a health problem, Cook said student would then be referred to specialists.

It is the referrals which concern a vocal critic of the plan. In a letter addressed to Dillon, Hancock resident Edward Szymkowiak said the clinics are controversial because they involve "reproductive health services."

Szymkowiak said there is a link between Bassett Hospital and Planned Parenthood and he said it was "quite reasonable to predict that this relationship will manifest itself in close cooperation between the two organizations regarding reproductive health services for Hancock teens."

Cook dismissed the criticism. "He is more interested in promoting his own political agenda than the welfare of our kids."

Bassett oversees similar clinics in four other schools, according to Michelle Roche-Babbie of the public relations office of Bassett.

She said Dr. Chris Kjolhede oversees the clinics in Delaware Academy, Edmeston, Laurens and Morris schools for Bassett. Roche-Babbie added that the hospital was in the "preliminary" stages of planning a similar clinic for Hancock, but she said Bassett was a little reluctant to move forward because of funding concerns.

"We are waiting to see if we do in fact get the funding before we move forward," she said.

If the funding is approved the district, students, parents and community will be consulted before any clinic is established.

"We will survey everyone to see what they think the clinic should offer and to see what their concerns are," Roche-Babbie said. "We want to establish a program which the community supports and which they will let their children attend."

One of the charges Szymkowiak makes in his letter to Dillon is that contraceptives will be provided without parental knowledge and consent. Not so, Roche-Babbie said.

"All students will have to return signed parental permission slips in order to be treated at the clinic," she said, adding that if reproductive services are not sought by the community, they will not be offered. "That would defeat the purpose."

She stressed that once funding is approved, community and district cooperation will be sought before any clinic services are established.


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