CALAIS, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – School-based health clinics across the state that lost funding after the state government shutdown back in July are now fighting to stay open.
All 15 clinics were dependent on more than half a million dollars provided through the Fund for a Healthy Maine under the Department of Health and Human Services.
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“I don’t know what I would do if we didn’t have this over here,” Kylie Donovan said.
Donovan, a student at Calais High School, said the school-based health clinic there is crucial for most all the students.
The clinic provides services including routine physicals, immunizations and treatment for injuries. They also offer mental health counseling.
More than 75-percent of the student body relies on the center.
"We've been here for 14 years,” director Ann Skriletz said. “There is no student in the Calais system who hasn't had the health center."
Skriletz help start the center with a federal grant. Since then, they have been funded with the money from the state, allowing them to pay for contracts with providers.
Calais School Department superintendent Ronald Jenkins told NEWS CENTER that they can make it through this year, but is unsure where they would be able to find the money after that.
"I just can't imagine going back and I'm sure this community can't imagine,” Skriletz said.
In such rural communities, Skriltez said some students have to travel upwards of an hour to receive health care. She said many students cannot get transportation and others are living in poverty.
“It’s a huge need,” she said.
Democratic State Representative Jim Handy of Lewiston recently submitted a bill aimed at restoring funding to all the clinics.
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"These are absolutely needed. They provide services to students who wouldn't ordinarily have services,” Handy said.
Rep. Handy said he was hopeful that his fellow legislators would back the bill.
"We need to have this funding restored. I don't know what would happen otherwise,” Skriletz said.
Students like Kylie Donovan, who have counted on the services, are now left waiting. She said it is common to feel like her rural community is forgotten.
"In our area we are it, but compared to everything else we are nothing,” Donovan said.
The proposal to restore funding will be considered in the next legislative session in January.