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Health center to go into Vermilion High School

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VERMILION — Plans are developing for a health center on the Vermilion Schools campus in the near future.

A draft of a contract between the Erie County Health Department/Erie County Community Health Center and the school district was discussed during Monday’s school board meeting.

The center would provide care for students as well as school employees. The space would include primary care, dental health and mental health care.

The Erie County Health Department is leading the planning of the center, which will mostly be funded by Medicaid.

Vermilion Schools Superintendent Phil Pempin said the idea came up four months ago when the district’s new levy was up for approval in November. The 0.68-mill levy, which was approved by voters, is expected to raise $300,000 a year for the next five years to improve school security measures. The money from the levy is specified for adding a school resource officer and mental health therapist in the district, as well as for upgrades to security cameras, door locks and entrances at the district’s three school buildings.

The district also is getting help from The LCADA Way, Mercy Health Medical Center and other services and organizations.

“We’re all trying to work together as a group to make sure the students are going to get their physical and mental health needs met,” Pempin said.

The need, he said, came from the increasing examples of students becoming a danger to themselves or others because of the lack of mental and behavioral health services. The examples, he said, were coming from not just Vermilion Schools but schools across the country.

Although the district does have dedicated counselors and therapists, Pempin said some are ill-equipped compared to mental health professionals. The existing counselors and therapists will work within the center.

Pete Schade, health commissioner for the Erie County Health Department, said he agreed with the importance of giving students the mental and behavioral support they need.

“These kids today are not bashful about (mental health issues) because they’ve seen so much of it in the press that they can seek the help they need,” he said.

Schade said the health department have helped set up health centers like this in other institutions like EHOVE Career Center in Milan or community schools, but never for a public school district.

The center will be available for students and faculty who already have a physician but need its services for emergencies. It wouldn’t be open all day and will start out being open a few hours during the day.

The center will be set up in Vermilion High School and will occupy 1,200 to 1,400 square feet of space. It also would have additional trailer space for an oral clinic that would provide teeth cleanings and checkups.

Pempin said the planning is a work in progress but he could have more to share in terms of a floor plan and numbers within a month or so.

Schade said he hopes the center one day will be open to community members and will be in a newly constructed building.

Contact Bruce Walton at 329-7123 or bwalton@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Facebook @BWalton440 or Twitter @BruceWalton.
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