Federal officials have awarded a $500,000 grant to help pay for construction of a proposed health center at Round Lake High School, a project which has drawn opposition from a local organization that is against abortion.
Lake County Health Department officials announced the grant Tuesday.
The Lake County agency will receive the money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to spend at the high school.
Under the plan, the facility would provide comprehensive primary care, behavioral health service, physicals, immunizations and disease management for about 2,000 Round Lake High School students as requested and with consent from a parent or legal guardian, officials said.
The center, which would be part of a larger construction program at the high school, must be built by December 2014 to qualify for the grant.
Round Lake Area Unit District 116 would own the clinic space and lease it to a health care provider, officials said. It would not replace any classrooms.
The center would be the first of its kind in Lake County and provide services based on ability to pay. Most District 116 pupils are from low-income families and qualify for free or reduced price lunches.
Karen Smith, the school's health services coordinator, said the center would give students greater access to medical care.
She's been involved in the planning process with the county health department, Advocate Condell Medical Center, Vista Health System, Mano a Mano Family Resource Center and Nicasa, a nonprofit behavioral health, substance abuse prevention and treatment agency
"I am very happy and very pleased this funding has been awarded," Smith said.
Lake County Right to Life has come out against the District 116 clinic proposal, which first surfaced in 2010. Organization President Bonnie Quirke has questioned the potential of students obtaining birth-control pills or abortion referrals without their parents' knowledge on school property.
Quirke did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
At public presentations over the summer in the Round Lake area, District 116 representatives noted the Illinois Department of Human Services requires school-based health centers to offer minor injury diagnosis, physicals, reproductive health services, abstinence counseling, cancer screening, dental care and other services.
They said 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 facilities, but not required by the state.
District 116 Superintendent Constance Collins said she was "thrilled" to learn about the grant.
"Our next step is to hear from our students, parents, staff and community members about how this center can best serve needs," Collins said. "We want to gather as much input as possible to make the most informed decision on behalf of our students, parents, staff and the community."
Issues-oriented sessions are set for 10 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 15 and 7 to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Round Lake Beach Cultural and Civic Center. A health facility advisory committee will receive feedback through February before issuing a recommendation to Collins and the District 116 school board.