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Little Village Rallies for School Health Center

In the face of flagging public support for school-based health centers this year with budget crises for the state and county, community and business partners rallied to open a new health center at Little Village Lawndale High School.

The new center opened October 27 and has been very busy, said director Maria Sauerzapf. Parents toured the new clinic Monday during report card pickup day, and coaches bringing teams in for sports physicals note that what used to require a day off from school now takes only one class period, she said.

The health center provides primary care, pediatrics, and clinical counseling along with health education, and is open to students and community residents. A counselor has been able to help kids who were “close to being kicked out of school,” she said. “Before, when students were referred for [mental health] services, they had to send them way out of the community” and many didn’t make it, Sauerzapf said.

The closest public clinic is the Jorge Prieto Clinic operated by Cook County, about a mile away, but it often takes weeks to get an appointment there, she said, and the nearest site for STD testing is even further.

The Prieto clinic was proposed as sponsor of the school’s health center, before the clinic itself was threatened by county’s budget crisis. State assistance for the health center became unavailable when Governor Blagojevich vetoed funding for 20 new school centers.

The nonprofit community-based Alivio Medical Center stepped in as the sponsor, with major support from CITGO Petroleum Corp. as well as the school’s primary sponsor, the Little Village Community Development Corp.

The Illinois Coalition for School Health Centers plans to persist in efforts to restore state funding for new and expanded centers, said Blair Harvey, noting that local governments, school districts, health care providers and community groups in 50 communities have asked for school health centers.

“They know high school students are one of the most underserved groups, the least likely to visit a doctor’s office, and the most at-risk,” she said.

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Category: CPS, health, Lawndale, Little Village, schools

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