A commitment to community care

A commitment to community care
By Taylor Utzig

Loyola’s School-Based Health Center moves student services online amidst coronavirus pandemic

When Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered all public schools to close on March 17 because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, more than classes were cancelled. The statewide closings also limited students’ access to counselors, mental health resources, social workers, and nurses.  

Loyola’s School of Nursing provides many of these resources to local high schoolers through the Loyola School-Based Health Center (SBHC) at Proviso East High School in Maywood, Illinois. Despite that school’s closure, the health center has found a way to continue to provide vital services to students.  

“We feel it is very important for us to be proactive and to continue providing services in this stressful and confusing time. We want to be the steady source of good information along with spreading important health information,” says SBHC Director and School of Nursing Professor Diana Hackbarth. 

By using Proviso East’s secure network, Microsoft Teams, the SBHC staff has been able to connect with students through "virtual visits” for health discussions, therapy visits, and nutrition services. With a large caseload of students with behavioral health issues, virtual visits allow the SBHC’s social workers to schedule and keep regular appointments and provide some continuity in a time of stress and uncertainty.  

“We feel it is very important for us to be proactive and to continue providing services in this stressful and confusing time."

Since the network is also used by the high school’s faculty and administration for online learning, the SBHC staff is able to openly communicate with the school and make sure students’ needs are being met across the board.  

“There is a lot of coordination with the school during this stressful time. Because our staff is embedded in the structure of the school, we are already on committees and taskforces. We have relationships in place to support these kinds of virtual health care services,” says SBHC social worker Addie Van Zwoll. 

The health center has partnered with Proviso East for 20 years and, this year, planned to host its largest health fair yet in the school’s gymnasium on March 17 and 18. The event was cancelled due to coronavirus concerns, but like the SBHC’s health services, Loyola plans to move the health fair to a virtual platform.  

“The school wants to continue students' studies. We want to continue to provide health promotion and behavioral health services and encourage good nutrition and exercise,” says SBHC nurse practitioner Kate Myczek. 

The health center continues to share relevant updates for parents and students about the coronavirus pandemic on its website. The health center is supported by federal and state grants and gifts from private foundations.