Clinic Closing Reaction: "We Need The Children's Clinic"
The closing of the North Country Children's Clinic (NCCC) will hit hard in many ways.
Anyone who uses Medicaid insurance in Jefferson County will likely find it harder to get medical care. Thousands of students in the Watertown and South Jefferson school districts will lose basic medical and dental treatment provided in school.
Or as Laura Cerow, the commissioner of Jefferson County's Department of Social Services put it succinctly Tuesday night: "We need the Children's Clinic."
For people using Medicaid insurance, Cerow said "I don't know what they're gonna do, because Jefferson County is already short on Medicaid providers."
"Without that clinic, there are not enough private medical providers. These people are not going to have a place to go."
Making matters worse, she said, the largest private insurer in the area that handles Medicaid, Excellus, is pulling out of northern New York effective January 1.
The Children's Clinic had other, subtler advantages as well, Cerow noted; "Not only did they take people who have Medicaid, but they welcomed them. They were treated like human beings there."
"I'm sure we will be fielding hundreds of phone calls about this, and we have no answers for people."
NCCC operates three school-based clinics in Watertown, at the high school, Wiley Middle school and North Elementary.
Students from throughout the Watertown city school district are brought to the clinics to receive medical and dental treatment.
"Basically the clinic is there to provide the medicines and services children require," said Terry N. Fralick, district superintendent, Tuesday afternoon.
"Our partnership has been long established. It's a great loss to our community."
In an average year, more than 2,500 students are treated at the school health centers in Watertown and Soth Jefferson, according to the NCCC web site. The clinics not only provide basic medical and dental care, they refer students for additional treatment outside of school.
Fralick said the clinics will close at the end of the day Friday.
"I'm not sure what the options will be for these families, but I know it's going to be difficult."
Both state senator Patty Ritchie and Congressman Bill Owens pledged to help Tuesday night.
Ritchie said she had been in contact with state officials: "I'm aware of the breadth of services the clinic provides, and I've been working with the Department of Health to come up with some kind of plan to over the next couple of days."
Owens said "We want to do everything we can to be helpful to get the clinic back up and running."
Samaritan Medical Center was contacted Tuesday by the North Country Children's Clinic and is expected to comment Wednesday. .
Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Watertown, NY
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