District 207: Health center short $32K

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The school-based health center at Maine East High School that has served about 13,500 District 207 students since it opened seven years ago is facing a financial shortfall.

Representatives of the health center attended the Maine Township High School District 207 Board of Education meeting Oct. 4 to ask the board for about $32,000 to assist with their projected shortfall in the current budget.

"We've always had tremendous support from District 207," said Scott Chovanec, department chairman for physical and health education.

The board has never contributed directly to the health center's budget in the past. Members did not take action at the board meeting, but Chovanec said they indicated they would assist the center during this budget year by absorbing the amount in the education fund.

"The only way we can exist in the future is if we remain budget-neutral," Chovanec said.

The center continues to receive a $120,000 grant from the Illinois Department of Health and Human Services but additional funds from some smaller grants have been used up.

The health center treats 50 to 95 students from Maine East, Maine South and Maine West high schools for mental-health issues such as suicidal thoughts and serious depression every month. In March the center saw 98 mental-health cases.

Immunizations are another major service the health center provides. Chovanec said many of the parents of students in the district have language barriers that make it difficult to navigate the health-care system for important services such as immunizations.

The center is a primary-care clinic that provides general health assessments, care for chronic health conditions, pap smears, STD treatment, pregnancy testing and more.

"We found that in order for students to do well they have to be well," said Therese Hanigan, the nurse practitioner at the health center. "The people who work here are pretty passionate about it."

David Beery, District 207 spokesman, said: "It does a tremendous job of fulfilling a need."

At the Oct. 4 board meeting Dr. Frank Belmonti, a physician at Lutheran General Hospital, shared stories of the significant ways the health center has helped various students.

Beery said the board showed strong support for what the health center is doing on behalf of students and the entire community.

The health center actively conducts fund-raising efforts on its own, as well. Recently the center raised $2,500 in a "Rock 'n' Run" event to benefit the center.