New school-based health center in Bronzeville


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Bronzeville’s new school-based health center at John B. Drake Elementary will provide accessible healthcare to students and families, according to principal Sydney Golliday.

By Metro Reporter

A state-of-the-art health center opening next year in Bronzeville will bring accessible healthcare and medical exams to approximately 400 Chicago Public School students and their families from 20 neighborhood schools, according to a Sept. 23 press release from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The new health center—scheduled to be housed at John B. Drake Elementary School, 2710 Dearborn St., by 2017—was announced by Emanuel, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita and Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd Ward), the press release stated.

Sydney Golliday, the principal of Drake, said the health center would benefit students and low-income families in the Bronzeville area when completed.

“It is my hope that the school-based health center will allow us to provide options and healthier choices for our students, parents and the larger community,” Golliday said.

Cynthia Boyd, director of the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships at University of Illinois at Chicago’s Mile Square Health Center, said the organization has been providing healthcare to communities for more than 20 years, and this will be their sixth school-based health center.

Boyd said the health center would be what she calls a “hub model,” which provides service to schools in the surrounding community.

“It is a model I know will be successful,” Boyd said. “It is one I want to promote in Chicago because there is such great need for healthcare in the city.”

The health center, the city’s 33rd to be located in a school, is a product of UIC’s MSHC program, the press release stated.

It would be a federally qualified health center and will serve all people regardless of ability to pay but will bill third party payers such as Medicaid, Medicare and managed care, Boyd said.

Mary Johnson, a strategy and operations specialist of pediatrics at UIC College of Medicine, said school-based health centers are successful because of the accessibility they provide to youth.

“Oftentimes, there is a barrier in health information for young people,” Johnson said. “School-based health centers provide an opportunity to see a provider who specializes in their age group.”

Johnson said children from low-income families face obstacles to access healthcare, and the specialized staff of school-based health centers are helpful in  overcoming and addressing those issues which are all too common.

“School-based health centers have staff who are well-versed in working with not only child and adolescent populations but economically disadvantaged communities,” Johnson said.

Senior Manager of School-Based Health at Erie Family Health Center Kimberly Williams said the health center would provide healthcare options to the community.

“[The center] will reach a variety of individuals who may not have reliable access to transportation,” Williams said.

Golliday said the project has been underway for two years and the center will provide a wide range of services. 

“There will be a primary care physician, mental health practices, and a focus on fitness and health and wellness,” Golliday said.

School-based health centers can be key players in improving the educational process, Boyd said.

“Kids cannot learn if they are sick,” she said. “It may not be obvious sickness. It could be stress, depression or hunger-related, and through school health centers we are able to detect those issues.”

Golliday said she is looking forward to observing the new, state-of-the-art health center help the Bronzeville community.

“This will provide access and an entryway for conversations about healthcare and how healthy choices impact the entire community,” Golliday said.