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updated: 9/16/2012 6:35 AM

Round Lake-area District 116 health clinic plan drawing objections

Opponents say taxpayers would be on hook; official say it would aid low-income families

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  • Bonnie Quirke

      Bonnie Quirke

  • Constance Collins

      Constance Collins

 
 

Round Lake Area Unit District 116's plan to start a school-based health clinic is drawing opposition from an organization opposed to abortion.

Lake County Right to Life President Bonnie Quirke said her group has come out against the District 116 clinic proposal, which first surfaced in 2010. She questioned the potential of students obtaining birth-control pills or abortion referrals without their parents' knowledge on school property.

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"If that's what the community wants, shame on them. But I don't think they know (the possibilities)," said Quirke, a Libertyville resident who's the Cook Memorial Public Library District board president.

Clinic proponents say its services would be determined by District 116 residents, and public forums are planned to discuss the issues.

If created, the health center initially would target high school students as the first of its kind in Lake County, District 116 officials said. Proponents say such a clinic -- offering services such as vaccinations and physicals based on an ability to pay -- would benefit students in a district where most students are from low-income families.

Superintendent Constance Collins said a federal grant is being sought for up to $500,000 to build the clinic at Round Lake High School. She said the district expects to learn the result in December, with the center likely opening for the 2013-14 academic year if the federal money arrives.

Brenda Bannor of Chicago-based Millennia Consulting recently pitched the center's potential benefits at board meetings of the five villages within District 116's boundaries. The company Bannor works for has helped other school districts across the state, including Park Ridge-based Maine Township High School District 207, in launching health centers.

Aware of Bannor's presentations, Quirke's group sent letters explaining its concerns about the clinic to Hainesville, Round Lake, Round Lake Beach, Round Lake Heights and Round Lake Park village officials.

At a Round Lake village board meeting, Bannor said students would need a consent form signed by a parent or guardian to enroll at the health center. She said the Illinois Department of Human Services requires the centers to offer minor injury diagnosis, physicals, reproductive health services, abstinence counseling, cancer screening, dental care and other services.

Bannor said the Lake County Right to Life concern about girls seeking an abortion referral should go beyond a school-based health clinic. She said she's noted in her presentations that state law allows for a minor to receive an abortion referral from a medical provider without parental notification.

Contraception availability is recommended for school-based health centers but not required by the state, she said.

"Some communities decide that they want to provide contraceptives on site; some communities decide that they don't," Bannor said. "This is the decision that each school-based health center can make."

Last year, members of a community advisory committee convened by Nicasa, a Lake County substance abuse prevention and treatment organization, agreed after a four-month feasibility study that a clinic is needed. Collins said the committee has been soliciting feedback on what should be provided at the health center.

Collins stressed no final decisions have been made for the clinic.

"We will be responsive to the will of the community on what services are provided," she said.

Bannor said the need for a school-based health center is real at a district where two-thirds of 7,000 students qualify for free or reduced price lunches because they are from low-income families. About 70 percent of the student body is Hispanic.

"There are limited primary health care options in the community," Bannor said. "You do have the Lake County Health Department, but people refer to very long waiting periods to get appointments."

Quirke said the Round Lake High clinic would be a duplication of services already offered by the county's health department or hospital emergency rooms to low-income patients. She added she has doubts about how local foundations, grants and a private health care provider are supposed to principally fund the center.

"The taxpayer will ultimately bear the brunt of the clinic once it's established," Quirke said.

Bannor said there are at least 2,000 school-based health centers in the United States and 60 are in Illinois. She said health care providers are in charge of the operations, not schools.

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