PARIS, Ill. (WCIA) – Students and families in the Paris School District now have a brand new healthcare option – and it’s inside the high school.

Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Larson said the Tiger Health Center is one of only a few of its kind in Illinois, joining school districts like Urbana and Pontiac. In a speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Larson said that reflects the district’s “progressive approach to education and well-being.”

Larson said the center offers a wide range of services. Providers can test for acute illnesses, prescribe medication, give vaccinations, athletic physicals, mental health care and more.

“Can you imagine – you as a parent get a phone call that your child is feeling sick at school. They say, ‘do you want them to see the nurse practitioner?’ and they can actually be diagnosed right there, with a test,” Larson said.

Cindy Mathis recently got that call about her granddaughter – a student in the Paris School District.

“Taylor was not feeling well, she had a sore throat. It ended up being more of a sinus infection,” Mathis said.

She says nurses were able to test Taylor for the flu, Covid-19 and strep throat – all while at school.

“I didn’t have to interrupt my day in order to get her checked out,” Mathis said.

Plus, it didn’t cost her a cent.

“It’s all completely free. Or parents love it,” Larson said.

That’s the idea behind an Illinois Department of Public Health grant program putting teams of registered nurses, social workers, psychologists and other medical professionals inside schools – available to all students and their family members.

“We are in a high poverty area. We are rural. And we lack access to healthcare in a timely manner,” Larson said.

Larson says a major barrier to low-income families in the district is something called “fragmented care.”

“Think about when you go to a doctor and they refer you somewhere else. Think about the follow up appointments,” he said.

Not to mention, the time and money it takes to be treated in traditional healthcare settings. Another challenge: Paris is close to Indiana. Larson says families often move across state lines during the school year.

“When you come from Indiana to Illinois and you are on government assistance for healthcare, there’s usually another fragmentation in service,” Larson said.

He’s hoping the new Tiger Health Center will help remove those obstacles.

“They are your entire healthcare team rallying around you, supporting you, to make sure your needs are met. And we want to do that for kids at a young age,” he said.

Larson says they’ve partnered with Horizon Health, so providers are able to make referrals within the system and exchange records when necessary. He also says guardian consent is needed to provide care to students, and those forms are available online.