Baldwin Middle School unveils the 'Baldwin Schools Wellness Center' for mental health support


Addressing the pressing need for mental health resources, the Baldwin school district has unveiled the Baldwin Schools Wellness Center in Baldwin Middle School, which will serve as a hub for comfort and support.

In partnership with PM Pediatric Care, an urgent-care center with its corporate office in New Hyde Park that specializes in pediatric and adolescent care, the wellness center will provide an array of services intended to meet the needs of both students and the community.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony on March 21 inaugurated the facility, with a green ribbon serving as a symbol of mental health awareness.

“In our school system, we embrace this idea for understanding that it’s 2024,” district Superintendent Shari Camhi said. “The world is a different place than it once was and today, you’ll have the opportunity to see one of the examples of different.”

The left side of the wellness center space will focus on emotional wellness, and the right side on academic wellness. The left side will feature counseling sessions and art and play therapy. The right side has desks, dry-erase boards and what are called “falcon nest” seats.

Onsite counselors, therapists and behavioral specialists are available for students from elementary to high school.

The facility, Camhi explained, has been years in the making. She acknowledged the efforts of former U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, who secured over $3 million in funding for the school district’s social and emotional learning programs as part of $15 million in Community Project Funding, one of her final acts in Congress in 2022.

PM Pediatric Care’s School Health Program, which partners with over a dozen Long Island school districts, provides “telehealth” services, video consultations with specialists. Its partnership with Baldwin will be the first in which those services are available onsite at a school.

“Baldwin does a lot of firsts,” Camhi told the Herald. “When we talk about thinking about things differently, we actually mean that. We tend to look at what are the needs and the solutions. So this is a solution.”

Steven Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of PM Pediatric Care, who grew up in Baldwin and graduated from Baldwin High School, told the Herald that services were very limited back then, but now the needs are being addressed.

“I think there was much less recognition that there can be kids with mental health problems, unless it was really severe,” he said. “A lot of the stuff you see today — kids with anxiety, depression, ADHD — was completely ignored.

“Not anyone’s fault,” Katz added. “It just wasn’t something that was sort of in the consciousness of people.”

The wellness center began offering students its services in December, and school officials said that at least 200 students have visited. The center is open from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. during the school week, and on Saturdays by appointment.

Another center is being developed at the high school. That project was initially announced in March 2020, the Herald previously reported it as part of a collaboration with the Nassau University Medical Center, in East Meadow, and the Long Island Federally Qualified Health Center. Due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, however, the project experienced delays.

“If we’re seeing a need here,“ Camhi said, “trust me when I tell you, we’re seeing a need everywhere.”