Bills creating liaisons for homeless college students, addressing dental care in schools advance

Bills creating liaisons for homeless college students, addressing dental care in schools advance

By GRACE BARBIC
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate advanced several bills to the House Wednesday, including one establishing a housing insecurity liaison for homeless college students and another allowing routine dental care to be provided at schools.

Senate Bill 190, sponsored by Sen. Suzy Glowiak Hilton, D-Western Springs, would require higher education institutions, including business, technical or vocational schools, to designate at least one employee to serve as a liaison between the institution and the homeless student to assist in accessing resources.

Senate Bill 346, sponsored by Sen. Julie Morrison, D-Lake Forest, would require the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to regulate school-based dental programs that offer preventative dental services for children under age 19.

Both bills passed out of the Senate on 58-0 votes with no floor debate.

Glowiak Hilton’s bill concerning homeless students is a bipartisan effort to ensure the homeless college student population can properly access necessary resources.

“Oftentimes students without permanent housing are not aware of the resources available to them on campus and in their communities,” Glowiak Hilton said in a news release. “By creating a housing insecurity liaison, we are working to prevent homeless students from falling through the cracks by connecting them with aid.”

The institution could choose the liaison from within the financial aid department, campus housing services, or any other office or department they deem appropriate.

It would be the liaison’s responsibility to identify appropriate services, understand aid eligibility, track graduation and retention rates, and report the number of students using homelessness resources. They would also be in charge of developing a plan to provide access to on-campus housing between academic breaks to homeless students enrolled at the institution.

SB 190 would also require the Board of Higher Education to adopt rules, policies and procedures to implement the bill, as well as develop and provide training programs for the designated liaisons.

“Stable housing is foundational to academic and social success,” Glowiak Hilton said. “Creating this position is one step toward combating homelessness for students and ensuring they have access to better opportunities.”

Morrison’s bill would allow for schools to offer out-of-office preventative dental services, such as teeth cleanings, for children and teens.

The bill states that IDHFS would administer and regulate the programs and set requirements for follow-up referral care.

The bill also provides that no provider could be charged a fee by any unit of local government to participate in the school-based dental program administered by IDHFS.

“Routine dental care isn’t just about appearance – it’s about overall health and well-being that can affect every part of a child’s life,” Morrison said in a news release. “It’s time we treat dental care like other preventative health care.”

Morrison noted in a news release that about 20 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 11, and about 13 percent of those between 12 and 19, have at least one untreated cavity, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The best way to keep teeth healthy is through preventative dental care – but not every person has the means to go to the dentist routinely,” Morrison said.

SB 190 and SB 346 will now move to the House for consideration.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government and distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

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