Paris 95 continues progress on health center

By NANCY ZEMAN nzeman@prairiepress.net
Posted 11/21/22

A student health center for Paris Union School District 95 will be a step closer to reality with the Monday, Nov. 21, visit from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the district’s …

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Paris 95 continues progress on health center

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A student health center for Paris Union School District 95 will be a step closer to reality with the Monday, Nov. 21, visit from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the district’s school board learned at its November meeting Monday, Nov. 14.

Paris 95 Superintendent of Schools Jeremy Larson provided the update for school board members. The Paris 95 district received a grant to establish the health center from IDPH. School administrators working with Horizon Health are making that dream a reality.

Larson has mentioned during past board meetings some elementary students have not visited a doctor since they were born. There are a number who do not have their required physicals or immunizations as mandated by the Illinois State Board of Education.

The health center is manned by nurse practioner, Amber Pitts, who can treat patients for physical issues, and she has a background in mental health. Larson emphasized parents must give permission for a child to be treated. He also noted the health center, located at Paris High School, will not prescribe birth control.

The IDPH inspection and subsequent approval Monday will be followed by the center’s requirement to see 90 students from preschool through 12th grade before IDPH returns for the second and final step of the two-part certification process.

By partnering with Horizon Health, Larson said the school’s center will use the Athena medical records system — the same one used by Horizon. Information will be available to both the student’s regular provider and Pitts as well.

“It will be seamless,” Larson said.

Many of the Paris 95 students do not have a regular provider, he noted.

“This center will help provide care to our students who may not have interacted with providers in the past,” said Larson. “Their regular caregiver is the emergency room staff.”

Larson said a third grader at Wenz School was treated for a head wound at Horizon. A month later, the staples were still in his head.

“We were able to help this young man,” he said.

The superintendent explained there are athletic trainers present in the schools who treat athletes. The student health center is just another step in assuring Paris 95 and all high school students receive the care they need.

The district has a new committee to begin discussing the Medicaid Expansion of School Health (MESH). Schools already bill Medicaid for speech and other services.

According to the Health Schools Campaign, increasing access to school health services is critical to reaching underserved children. Until recently, schools were limited in their ability to use Medicaid funding to provide health care services in schools. Due to a federal Medicaid policy known as the free care rule, schools were previously only able to obtain reimbursement for services included in the Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) of Medicaid-enrolled students and in other limited situations.

In 2014, the reversal of the free care rule allowed schools to receive Medicaid reimbursement for eligible healthcare provided to any Medicaid-enrolled student. This has created tremendous potential for school districts to use Medicaid funds to support and enhance physical and behavioral health services. States must update their Medicaid programs before schools can take advantage of this opportunity.

In addition to the health center and Medicaid expansion for students, Larson said the district recently was awarded a nutrition grant to increase student wellness with more physical activity and better school meals.

The district currently participates in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is an alternative to collecting, approving and verifying household eligibility applications for free and reduced price eligible​ students in high-poverty local educational agencies (LEAs) for schools participating in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs.​ As a result, all Paris 95 students, preschool through eighth grade, receive free breakfast and lunches.

In other business, Larson said BLD Architects will visit all facilities in the district to complete a fire, life safety assessment. This is usually completed every 10 years, but since Kevin Grant is a new maintenance director for the district, the architect’s report is expected to ease his transition into the position.

Recent studies by the Illinois School Board Association (IASB) have reported the cost of building a new school has ballooned to $493 a square foot.

“Now, more than ever, it’s vital that we maintain the facilities we have,” Larson said.