Baldwin School District Among First to Implement Innovative On-Site Wellness Center

By: Miya Jones
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Students and families in the Baldwin school district will now be able to address any mental health issues they face for free at the newly created Baldwin Schools Wellness Center.

In partnership with PM Pediatrics, the center officially opened on March 21. Thanks to a $3 million grant secured by former New York State Congresswoman Kathleen Rice, the funding was available and the opportunity presented itself to create the center. When considering what organization to partner with, PM Pediatrics came to the forefront as a perfect fit according to Superintendent Shari Camhi.

“They [PM Pediatrics] offer the services and expertise we needed, and their team was fully on board with our innovative approach to tackling emotional wellness in schools,” said Camhi. “We understand that to provide a well-rounded, high-quality education, we must first ensure our student’s emotional needs are fully met. Nurturing the ‘whole child’ continues to be a key focus for the Baldwin School District.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing struggle for racial justice has accelerated troubling mental health trends among youth that have been observed prior to 2020. Rates of childhood mental health concerns and suicide rose steadily between 2010 and 2020 and by 2018 suicide was the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. McMillen Health states that mental health affects an array of outcomes such as a student’s ability to learn, academic achievements, social relationships, physical health and stress management.

Baldwin is one of the first school districts in the nation to implement this kind of health program.

Baldwin wellness mental health facility
The right side of the wellness center space will serve as an academic wellness safe haven for students. It is furnished with desks and dry-erase boards. 📸: HERNESTO GALDAMEZ/HERALD

“While the concept of integrated school health is not necessarily new, our school health program differentiates itself with a team that offers individual and group therapy, creative arts therapy, parent coaching and crisis consultation and intervention,” said PM Pediatrics. “The program offers behavioral analysis and individualized behavioral improvement plans, which are coordinated with teachers and school support staff for students who do not meet IEP requirements.”

In certain instances, if a student is struggling academically and/or emotionally they may qualify for special education services based special education testing and would receive an IEP or Individualized Education Program. An IEP provides services such as access to a resource room, integrated co-teaching classes, smaller classroom sizes or extended time on tests.

In addition, the facility will also offer professional development for school personnel.

The center opens around 9 a.m. until about 8 p.m. each day and on Saturdays by appointment only.

Miya Jones

Miya Jones

Miya Jones is a Long Island native and the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Shades of Long Island. She's been a journalist since the age of 17 and is a diversity advocate. Follow Miya on Instagram and Twitter: @miyajones1996 and on Facebook as Miya Jones.

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