February is School-Based Health Awareness Month and to celebrate EverThrive IL is recognizing how this evidence-based model is playing a crucial role during the ongoing pandemic. Whether virtually or in-person, young people, their families, and the greater community are connected to a network of care through the 66 school-based health centers (SBHCs) located in Illinois.
EverThrive IL recently shared our recommendations for addressing COVID-19 with Governor Pritzker’s administration, and chief among them was supporting the role SBHCs could play in the vaccine rollout and safe reopening of our schools. We were pleased to see Governor Pritzker meet with SBHC professionals at Morton East School-Based Health Center one day after sharing our recommendations. We commend the Governor for his commitment to supporting the SBHC model and investing its ability to address specific community needs during the ongoing pandemic.
SBHCs are primed to serve this role. SBHCs foster relationships with the communities they serve, building trust in the health care system while providing whole health services like medical, behavioral, dental, and vision care. What makes the school-based model of health so special is that it brings together two pillars of the community: health and education. Even with schools closed during the pandemic, many SBHCs provided a crucial access point for communities with the least access. As the COVID-19 pandemic placed added stress and prolonged trauma on so many communities, SBHCs continue to serve as a lifeline to essential behavioral health services. Their presence is important now more than ever, as they provide early and consistent intervention as well as prevention, that reduces the strain on emergency rooms by decreasing emergency department visits and hospitalizations.
SBHCs by design take a holistic approach to care, working alongside the community to connect families to services they would otherwise not have direct access to. For this reason, we pushed for the continued funding of our SBHCs so that they could stay open, even when schools shut down, as a vital resource to the health and wellness of our community. When we invest in SBHCs they’re not only able to help individuals access care, but they are able to support larger public health efforts to respond to the pandemic.
Mount Holyoke College ’22