URBANA – A medical clinic designed specifically for Urbana schoolchildren could become a reality as early as next year.
The clinic at Urbana High School would also offer social and psychological services, and the need exists for all those services, said officials who reviewed the plans at a recent Urbana school board study session.
"We're not there yet, but we're getting closer," said Gene Amberg, superintendent of Urbana schools, which will provide space and school nursing and social worker services for the clinic. It will be operated by other partners and subcontractors.
Dave Remmert, director of community health surveillance, planning and education for the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District, said Urbana was selected because students who will use the clinic likely will come from economically disadvantaged families, and numbers in Urbana demonstrate the need.
The public health district secured a planning grant to do preliminary work on clinic plans and will be a key partner. The Urbana school board has been regularly briefed on the plans but won't have to vote on the project until the money is in hand to make the changes at the high school and the lease for the area is to be signed.
About 55 percent of the elementary students qualify for free and reduced-cost lunches, one indicator of economic need, Remmert said. About 48 percent of all students in the district qualify for free and reduced lunch, and about a third of all students live in single-parent homes, he said.
"The number of children who don't have access to health care is growing," Amberg said. "Statistics show more and more have no health insurance or are underinsured. Also, we're concerned about behaviors established early in childhood and risky behaviors in adolescents."
"There's poor nutrition, alcohol and tobacco use, sex, lack of physical activity and lots of obesity. Children also need regular physical, dental and eye exams. We think the clinic can be a very effective model for ensuring our students get preventative and primary health services."
Services at the clinic would include social services like health education classes, mental health, substance abuse and reproductive counseling and early screenings.
The school-based clinic trend has grown recently because schools are dominant and centrally located institutions in a community and because schoolchildren have particular health needs.
"Students, that age group, have specific needs that are somewhat different than the needs of adults," Remmert said. "We also believe that by investing in the health of children, we can make them healthier adults and create a healthier community. We're trying to influence their behaviors when they're young.
"Part of the reason the relationship between schools and clinics has grown is there's a relationship between health and learning, a reciprocal relationship," he said.
He said school-based clinics provide service for all students who need help, although the children who typically use the services are youngsters whose families don't have the money or insurance to get regular private health care.
"But every student has access regardless of his or her ability to pay," Remmert said.
Clinic director will be Dr. Kimberly Glow, a new physician on the Carle Clinic staff specializing in adolescent medicine.
"She's had a lot of experience in Chicago working with school-based clinics and the Evanston High School Health Center," said Amberg, who visited Glow and clinics upstate with representatives from the district and others who are working on the plans.
Urbana schools face serious funding problems, but the only cost to the district will be renovating a former shop space for the clinic. Amberg said it will take about $150,000 to renovate the space, in a former woodworking area at the high school near Iowa Street and the gymnasium.
"We wanted an outside entrance so it will be accessible to elementary and middle school students," Amberg said. "It's in a central location."
Remmert said donors have already contributed most of the money.
"Urbana Rotary has promised about $50,000, the Carle Foundation has contributed $30,000 and the public health district has allocated $40,000, so we're looking for the last $30,000," he said.
"Urbana schools aren't providing much financial assistance," Remmert said. "Public health is doing a lot of the overall coordination, Frances Nelson (Health Center) is the medical provider, and others will provide contractual services. The school will take care of the ongoing maintenance of the room."
Clinic cooperators will also include Prairie Center for Substance Abuse and Provena Behavioral Health.
Frances Nelson will be the chief medical provider because it's federally funded and qualifies for prime reimbursement rates.
Continuing grants from the Illinois Department of Health Services and Healthy Schools/Healthy Communities would play a significant role in the clinic's budget, which estimates income in the first year at $447,500 and expenses at $352,336.
Glow would probably be at the clinic about 10 hours a week, and a nurse practitioner would staff it for up to 30 hours a week, 12 months a year.
The number of visits is estimated at 2,000 in the first year, 2,750 the next year and 3,500 in the third year.
Amberg said it will take six months to renovate the high school area after the money is in hand.
"This project focuses on the strengths of all the partners and they'll be integrated into a unique environment," Remmert said, adding that the concept is becoming increasingly popular in the state.
There are about 15 similar clinics in Chicago area schools, and there are others in Rockford, Kankakee, Peoria and Pontiac.
You can reach Anne Cook at (217) 351-5217 or via e-mail at email@example.com.