A school-based health center may soon be coming to Malden High School. After weeks of debate, the Malden City Council unanimously approved the annual budget for federally issued Community Development Block Grant Funds at its May 8 meeting. Contained within that estimated $1.3 million grant is a $50,000 line item to build out a portion of Malden High School to support a health center for students. That expenditure garnered the most debate for the four weeks the budget was discussed in the Finance Committee. The concern wasn’t about the build out, but about how such an operation would be run and, specifically, if the city would be on the hook if the program ran a deficit. “We needed, as a committee, to vet what was going to happen,” said Councilor Barbara Murphy, who, along with Councilor Craig Spadafora, raised the most questions about the finances of the potential health center. The original intent for the program was to partner with Cambridge Health Alliance to run the new facility, as they operate similar programs in Somerville and Everett. At those locations, CHA typically runs a deficit, though it is mitigated somewhat by tailoring services to the specific needs of each school and through grants.
Without being able to obtain hard numbers from those municipalities, the mayor’s office agreed to go through a Request For Proposal process to select the institution that will run the health center, during which the city can negotiate how the city will or will not be affected should the center run a deficit. “I will be watching very carefully to make sure it doesn’t have a negative impact on other city services,” Murphy said. Of the total CDBG budget, the city can choose to give as much as 15 percent to local nonprofits, with the Malden Redevelopment Authority running the application and selection process. This year’s budget includes $199,000, the maximum allowed, that will be distributed to 22 organizations, including Bread of Life, Malden Elderly Transportation, the Malden YMCA and YWCA, among others. CDBG also allows for improvements to parks and public facilities in low to moderate income areas of the city. In addition to the $50,000 for the school health center, this portion of the budget includes upgrades to the Coytemore Lea Park, Forestdale Park and Tot Lot, Maplewood Park, MacArthur Park and Fitzgerald Park, as well as various Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk improvements and various other work to help pedestrian safety. In total, these improvements come to $599,000.
Though present at the meeting, Councilor Peg Crowe recused herself from the discussion and vote, as she is employed by one of the nonprofits receiving funds in the budget.