VBISD and Health Department move ahead with plans to construct new health services/teaching facility

Paul Garrod – news4garrod@vineyardpress.biz
	An artist’s drawing of the proposed new Van Buren County Health Department to be built at the Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Technology Center in Lawrence illustrates the two-story facility scheduled for construction beginning this fall.
Courtesy of Van Buren Intermediate School District

    LAWRENCE - A partnership forged between the Van Buren-Cass County Health Department and the Van Buren Intermediate School District in proposing the construction of a new facility in Lawrence, moves ahead with plans for the start of construction this fall.
    “It’s a one-of-a-kind partnership,” said  Van Buren Intermediate School District Superintendent Jeffrey Mills of the  proposed construction at the Van Buren Intermediate School District’s Technology Center.  “This is a model for the State of having a Health Department/Career Technical Education (CTE) Center working together for the benefit of educational training and development of Public Health Services. It is also bringing other agencies  together to discuss future collaborative projects.”
    Mills said, “The benefits this will provide students, staff, community members and business owners are limitless.
    “In conversations with others, Jeff (Elliott, Van Buren/Cass District Health Department Director) and I have been referring to this project as a ‘Health Education Training Facility.’
    The two entities recently re-ceived approval from the Van Buren County Board of Commissioners that would provide for a $75,000 yearly payment for 10 years, to assist with lease payments on the proposed facility and utilities.
    Currently, funding is also being sought through Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant Funding, Revolving Loan Fund Program, Community Health Innovation Funds and the United States Department of Agriculture.
    According to Elliott, the Health Department programs will all integrate with existing Career Technical Education programs, allowing students to “walk  down the hall” to get real life experiences.
    “Students will be able to ‘shadow’  existing Health Department employees for training, consulting with clients, etc.,” said  Elliott.
    The proposed construction would bring many “human service activities” together under one roof.
    It would also allow students on campus to access services (two facilities), serving students with severe disabilities (approximately 160 students).
    It would also provide a potential partnership with Western Michigan University for programs/internships for students.
    Elliott said the dental clinic would bring eight chairs, allowing the CTE to start a dental hygientist/assistant program for students, “thus improving future employment opportunities for students,” said Elliott.
    Both pointed out the economic benefits that could be realized by Van Buren County with the new facility. Among those are:
    •Additional families moving in to attend new program offerings;
    •New businesses moving into the community/county;
    •Visitors from other organizations, school districts, businesses wanting to learn from this new model;
    •Additional staffing for new program offerings;
    •In the new VBISD - main street hallway - opportunity for a “bistro cafe” serving breakfast-lunch items  would be used as an educational tool for students;
    •Additional partnerships with universities, community colleges and other educational institutions;
    •Showcasing the power of collaboration resulting in direct/indirect benefits of working together.
    Other programs offered through the Health Department that would integrate into CTE Programs include:
    •Public Health Nursing Services - Childhood vision and hearing screenings, communicable  disease control, tuberculosis screening and treatment, children’s special health care services, etc.;
    •Environmental Heal;th Services - Food sanitation on-site sewage disposal education, water and sewage education, non-community water supply education , private water supply education, etc.;
    •Emergency Preparedness - Work with partners across Van Buren and Cass counties to provide emergency planning support, and participate in regional exercise and training  programs. The program is working with organizations and businesses to prepare for public health emergencies for employees, clients, and/or patients, etc.;
    •Health promotion - Promoting programs to groups, schools, clubs and others as needed. Develop health promotional materials, conduct presentations and consultations as needed and Girls on the Run, etc and finally,
    •Dental services - dental exams, cleanings, X-rays, extractions, fillings, dentures partials, whitening and other dental  procedures, etc.
    Plans currently call for the two-story building construction to be completed by June of 2018.

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