ETHS/D202 school board on Monday night.

More Evanston Township High School students have visited the school’s on-site health clinic so far this year than in all of 2018-19, the last full academic year before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health center’s directors told the District 202 Board of Education Monday night that 1,117 patients used the school-based health center from last July through March.

That’s up from 1,100 visits for all of the 2018-19 school year.

Ida Joyce Sia, a nurse who runs the center, and Dr. Aimee Crow, the medical director, outlined several new or expanded programs, including additional hours for the licensed clinical social worker, art therapy, acupuncture and an on-site partnership with NorthShore University HealthSystem which offers counseling and psychiatric medication management.

Crow, who also works at NorthShore, said the psychiatric connection, called Bridges, “was always our dream” for the ETHS school-based center.

“It’s a way,” Crow said, “for kids to get access to psychiatric care that they never had before.”

A report on the center also said it continues to offer “free and confidential access to all forms of contraception,” as well as working on “reducing barriers to … gender affirming care.”

The facility also helps prepare students to “manage their own health and wellness after graduation,” with information about health insurance and other health-access programs.

Crow also said the health center is “on the front lines of prevention education,” with a curriculum that includes fentanyl overdose protection. Fentanyl, Crow said, is the number one cause of death among those ages 18-45.

“Prevention education” also includes gun safety. The center can provide gun locks.

Crow added that the ETHS health center has “far outgrown its space,” and a budgetary request for more room might be on the horizon.

As an example, Crow said the center’s social worker has to meet with student clients in the health facility’s kitchen. It’s decorated nicely, Crow noted, but it’s still a kitchen.

While many center visits are fairly routine “sick visits,” some, particularly those involving mental health services, can be critical.

The two clinic leaders put up a quote from the parent of a health center student patient, which said, in part “without ETHS’ amazing health services,” combining social and medical, “I don’t know if my son would be alive.”

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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