QUINCY -- Kelle Bunch understands it's sometimes difficult for families to get the services needed to meet school medical examination requirements.
"We don't have a clinic in Liberty, and there are requirements for students in terms of getting immunizations, physicals and now dental and vision," said Bunch, superintendent of the Liberty School District.
Help is on the way, thanks to a mobile clinic slated to hit the road to offer primary medical, behavioral and oral health care services at schools in Liberty, Payson, Mendon, Camp Point and Mount Sterling.
The mobile clinic, funded through a $300,000 grant from the Illinois Children's Healthcare Foundation, should be delivered within the next month and be providing service before the start of the 2017-18 school year.
"The goal is we will be bringing the clinic out to all the settings we're going to deliver service at, let people take a look at it in an open-house type of situation and make it available for back-to-school services," Adams County Health Department Administrator Jerrod Welch said.
The Wellness Express is a partnership among the Health Department, Blessing Health System, Chaddock, Regional Office of Education No. 1, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Center for Family Medicine in Quincy and the United Way of Adams County.
"It takes the entire project team, the entire community to support these things," Welch said.
Key to the project has been participation, and interest, from area schools that see the clinic as a way to keep students in class while meeting their medical, dental and emotional needs.
"Out in the rural areas of Adams County and Brown County, people can get into Quincy, but it takes basically half to an entire day to come in, get service and go back," Welch said. "If you can bring services out there, parents are able to be at work, kids are able to be at school. It's not as disruptive, and it trickles down to their health, their education and ultimately to their success in school and in life."
Welch said the partners talked for several years about the idea of delivering well-rounded school-based health care to rural students before finding a funding source for the project. The unit is being custom built by Matthews Specialty Vehicles, Greensboro, N.C., and is modeled on other mobile clinics operating in Illinois. Workers are finishing the exterior graphics package on the mobile clinic and final inspections of the interior.
Ongoing funding will come through fees generated by the clinic and support from the partners.
"There will be a lot of work in keeping it going," Welch said. "The goal is that once we get the clinic up and running it becomes a community asset, and as the value of the asset becomes more well known, we'll be able to take some donation-type items."
Bunch said the mobile clinic offers a way to make sure students are taken care of without inconveniencing families when services aren't readily available in their community.
"Isn't that fabulous to make it that convenient?" Bunch said. "There's nothing worse than trying to say to families their child can't attend school after Oct. 15 because they don't have such and such. If the service comes here, hopefully we'll be more accommodating to them."