If all goes according to plan, New Bedford school children could soon have their own health clinic.

In his weekly appearance on WBSM Wednesday, Mayor Jon Mitchell – who also serves as chairman ex-officio of the New Bedford School Committee – said that during this past Monday’s school committee meeting a plan was discussed “in earnest” that could see the creation of a school-based health center at New Bedford High School.

The health center, to be operated by and as an annex of the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center, would allow students to have access to healthcare that they might not get otherwise.

“If you have something like that, you can get kids access to better medical care, physical and mental health care,” Mitchell said. “It would give students greater access to primary care physicians.”

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Putting the health center at New Bedford High would mean it was closest to the largest portion of the school system’s more than 12,500 students.

“If you have a health clinic that is established at a central location of a school district, it makes the most sense to do it at New Bedford High,” he said. “It’s by far the largest school but it’s also right across the street from Keith Middle School.”

He said a plan would be worked out as to how to get students from other schools over to the health center when necessary.

The students’ own health insurance would cover the cost of treatment, whether it be through their parents’ private insurance or if the student is covered by MassHealth, essentially the same way the Greater New Bedford Community Health Center is run.

However, Mitchell said getting the health center off the ground won’t cost the City of New Bedford anything.

“Because of the availability of certain federal funding, this is something that’s not going to cost us anything to establish,” he said. “There are two sets of federal funds that we’re going to take advantage of, and at the end of the day, we’re going to have a school-based health center that provides really good care for our students, and isn’t costing the City anything.”

The school committee meeting also moved along another plan to have a new central kitchen providing hot lunches to students across the city, Mitchell said, noting it’s just another step toward improving schools that started with improving the high school graduation rate and extended to new athletic facilities, a revamping of the transportation system and financial systems, and an investment in new facilities.

“All of those things had to happen, but what we’re talking about now is still more, with student lunches and student health,” he said. “These investments will pay off in the long run, and the good news is the City’s not going to have to pony up its own funds to do it.”

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