This February, Evanston Township High School’s School-Based Health Center will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Opening in 1996, the Health Center is a partnership between NorthShore University HealthSystem, Evanston Township High School, and the Evanston Health Department, with funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Health Center staff are employees of NorthShore University HealthSystem.
The Center is a “diamond in the rough,” District 202 School Board Secretary Bill Stafford told Board members as he introduced the Center’s annual report at the Jan. 26 meeting.
Currently 1,800 students or about two-thirds of the ETHS student body are registered at the Center, Julie Holland, M.D., an Evanston pediatrician and the Center’s medical director, told the Board. Any ETHS student can enroll to receive primary care services by providing a one-time parent consent form. Illinois Law allows minors to consent themselves for more urgent needs like mental health and immediate reproductive services. The Center also provides some services to District 65 students, mainly mid-year school physicals for new students.
The Center is separate from the ETHS Health Services Department or “nurses office,” which provides help for students who fall ill during the school day. The school nurse can refer students to the Health Center if needed.
Staffed by pediatricians, medical assistants, nurses and social workers, the Health Center provides ongoing care to students with chronic medical conditions and offers preventative care. Physicals and immunizations make up about 40% of the clinical services offered, said Dr. Holland. One day a week, integrated medical services like acupuncture are offered to students who suffer with asthma and chronic pain. Weight management programs, gynecological and reproductive health services, treatment of acute illness and injury, and lab testing are also offered.
Board member Gretchen Livingston asked about mental health services, saying that is an “issue that has risen to the forefront” as a priority in Evanston. Dr. Holland said that psychological support services are provided, that social workers assist students and refer them to other resources within the school. Connecting students to psychiatric services where a prescription is needed, however, remains a “hole in our services” said Dr. Holland.
This year, services were expanded to providing flu shots to faculty. ETHS paid for the immunizations, and 104 staff members took advantage of the new service.
For students with private health insurance, the Health Center charges a small fee for physicals, and lab testing. No fee is charged to those on Medicaid/All Kids, who make up about 49% of the Center’s patients. About 10-15% of students are uninsured, and the Center works to connect those students with insurance.
Female students make up 57% of the Center’s visitors; 43% are male. About 2% are Asian/Pacific Islanders, less than 1% are Black/Hispanic, Black/non-Hispanics comprise 44% of visitors, 6% are white/ Hispanic, 27% are white/Non-Hispanic, less than 1% are Native American/Aleutian/Alaskan, and 20% are of unknown or unspecified ethnicity.
Board member Doug Holt asked Dr. Holland if she has noticed any trends or anything “worrisome” at the Center. She, and the Center’s Lead Nurse Jennifer Ward, R.N., said that teen pregnancy continues to decline “dramatically” as is reflected in national numbers. Sexually transmitted infection rates are also coming down. Whooping cough continues to “rear its ugly head,” she said, and the Center continues to work on obesity with a “sugar show” that presents information to students about how much sugar is actually in their food.
The Center is an “incredible resource for students,” said Board President Pat Savage-Williams.
The ETHS Heath Center is open Monday through Friday during the school year and Monday through Thursday in the summer.