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School-based health center proposed for Joliet Central

JOLIET – Students at Joliet Central High School would be treated for colds, asthma attacks and other maladies in their own health center next year under a plan presented to the school board this week.

The Joliet Township High Schools board agreed Tuesday night to start a needs assessment after a presentation from the Will County Community Health Center on the benefits of a school-based health center.

Mary Maragos, chief executive officer of the health center, and Dr. Howard Ehrman, chief medical officer, made the presentation. They will work with Joliet Central Principal John Randich to speak with parents, students and school staff to assess community health needs and the potential benefits of a school health center.

Potential benefits include improvements in attendance, academic performance and classroom behavior, along with a decrease in the dropout rate, said Ehrman. He said absences in Massachusetts and Texas were cut in half after students could receive health services at school.

Services would include school and sports physicals, immunizations, mental health services, dental care, eye exams and reproductive health services.

The project would be designed to operate at no cost to Joliet Township District 204.

Superintendent Cheryl McCarthy said there is space for the center.

If the plan is approved, Maragos and Ehrman would apply for a federal grant of up to $500,000 to fund startup costs. Once it is operational, health center services should be funded by students’ insurance, said Ehrman. The health center will also get uninsured students onto Medicaid.

Students without insurance would not be turned away or billed for treatment, said Maragos.

The school district plans to have the needs assessment completed when a grant becomes available later this summer. The school board will decide later whether to move forward with the project.

Board President Jeff Pierson said that “while the board agrees with the concept there is still a lot of work to be done.”

If approved, the health center would open in fall 2015 and would be the first one in Will County. Currently, there are 64 such school health centers in Illinois and about 1,000 in the United States, according to Ehrman. Ehrman has worked with six health centers located in Chicago and Cicero while Maragos has worked in one at the University of St. Francis.

New band director hired

The Joliet Township High School board this week approved the hiring of Eric Wellman as the new band director of Joliet West High School. Wellman comes from Lincoln-Way Central High School where he was the band director since 2000.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to continue the musical excellence at Joliet West High School,” said Wellman.

Joliet West High School will introduce Wellman to parents and the community at 5 p.m. Wednesday in the school cafeteria.

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