Thursday, June 13, 2024

New VNA Health Center at former Aurora school called a ‘significant milestone’

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Officials held a ribbon-cutting Monday for what Aurora-based VNA Health Care called a milestone for the organization.

The VNA Health Center at the Jeff Craig Family Resource Center, housed in the former Mary Todd School at Oak and New York streets on the near West Side of Aurora, will serve West Aurora School District students and possibly eventually staff.

“It’s an exciting milestone for VNA,” said Linnea Windel, VNA Health Care president and chief executive officer. “It’s a natural next step to open a school-linked health center.”

Mike Shales, VNA board president, called Monday “another significant milestone” in the VNA mission of providing affordable health care.

“It’s an organization that has truly committed itself to the people it serves,” Shales said.

VNA Health Care serves more than 80,000 people at multiple locations, some 30,000 in Aurora, which still is home base for the organization.

The new center will couple with the Marie Wilkinson Food Pantry to provide both medical care and nutrition support for West Aurora School District households. It is named the Jeff Craig Family Resource Center after Craig, the West Aurora School District superintendent for the past 10 years, who is retiring this year.

“It’s humbling to see your name associated with a facility like this,” Craig said. “It’s a healthier and more equitable future for our students.”

Craig pointed out that the district has at times had to exclude as many as 500 students a year because they couldn’t afford to get necessary immunizations and vaccinations.

School physicals and immunizations are among the services the new center will provide. It also will include routine medical care, acute illness and injury care, chronic illness care, wellness exams and routine health screenings, lead screenings, tuberculosis tests and other lab services.

It also will engage in smoking, vaping, alcohol and drug use prevention education, mental and behavioral health services, and referrals for vision, dental, family counseling and other services.

The new health center will be open year-round. Same-day appointments and walk-in hours are available, and services are offered in English and Spanish. West Aurora School District will provide transportation services between schools and the health center, meaning students can receive care during the school day.

The center has already seen 139 students in the three weeks it has been open.

The new family resource center was remodeled into the former Todd School, which served as a West Aurora school for about 90 years. It is named after Mary A. Todd, who was high school principal between 1884 and 1887 on the same property, and who retired from school service in 1916, just two years before VNA was founded as the Visiting Nurses Association.

A student talks at a window at the entrance to the new VNA Health Center at the Jeff Craig Family Resource Center on Aurora’s West Side. (Steve Lord / The Beacon-News)

The former Todd School, which was built in 1934, is also being remodeled into affordable workforce housing.

“We’re happy to be able to use this building for years to come,” said Rich Kerns, West Aurora School District board president.

The whole former school complex – the health center, the resource center and the affordable housing – was a partnership between the state, the city, the school district and private business.

Mayor Richard Irvin said it has had an outstanding history, but “what it’s going to be is outstanding.”

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