Baldwin schools got a financial boost on Aug. 10, when Assemblywoman Judy Griffin presented a check to the Baldwin Union Free School District Board of Education for $450,000. The money will help create wellness centers in the middle school and Shubert Elementary School to support students’ mental health.
A center at the Baldwin High School has been in development for three years, spearheaded by Superintendent Shari Camhi.
Griffin secured the additional funding from the 2022-23 state budget.
At the meeting, Griffin told the board and residents how important mental health is in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “It is now more important than ever to give young learners all the resources they need to not only excel but thrive and pursue their dreams,” she said.
“This additional $450,000 in funding from the Assembly will allow for both Baldwin Middle School and Shubert Elementary School to expand their health care facilities and provide the space for age-appropriate mental health services.
“School-based health centers like these have been shown to increase student attendance and performance,” Griffin added, “and are better equipped to address our children’s mental health needs — a vital area I am extremely passionate about supporting.”
Griffin had the support of Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in securing the funds as part of the budget — “a budget which invested in the future of Baldwin’s children,” Griffin said, “with $750,000 for Baldwin’s Universal pre-K, nearly $28 million in Foundation Aid, an increase of 28.2 percent over last year, and increasing total aid by over $6.5 million, up 19.2 percent over last year’s funding.”
Having wellness centers at every level of school will benefit generations of students, Griffin said.
“We are making an important statement as a community about our shared commitment to our children’s health, wellness and safety, both inside and out,” she said.
Inside and out is right, Camhi added. “We’re calling it a wellness center because we’re not framing it in the negative,” she said. “It’s all about being well, whether it’s physically well or emotionally well.”
Camhi explained that a center at the high school has been in development for three years, and plans have finally been approved, which wasn’t an easy journey. “We received multiple promises of funding for a wellness center for the high school, and it takes a while to go through the bureaucracy to get the funding and plans approved,” she said.
“We now have to go to our architects and create the space. We’re kind of relentless, so we’ll get it done as soon as the powers that be allow paperwork to go through.”
Once the centers in all three schools are completed, the district will collaborate with the Nassau University Medical Center on the use of an NUMC psychiatric social worker and a therapist. Discussions with the hospital about staffing took place before the pandemic, so the details have not yet been worked out. All of the medical professionals, however, are expected to specialize in the care of children.
At last week’s meeting, Camhi hugged and thanked Griffin, saying she always accepts her calls with glee. “She is an incredible person and an incredible assemblywoman,” Camhi said, “and we’re very blessed to have her here represent(ing) Baldwin.”