School Board opts to seek more input
The Del Norte County Unified School District Board heard strong opinions for and against a proposal for a new teen health clinic Thursday evening.
Board members decided they want more community input before making a decision on the clinic.
It would be open five days a week from noon to 5 p.m. for youths to get general health information and referrals to services.
Twice a week, medical providers would be available to help teens
with various health issues.
That would include doing pregnancy tests, talking to pregnant girls
about their options, testing for sexually transmitted infections and
giving out condoms or prescriptions for birth control if teens request
it - services teens 12 and older can receive without parental consent,
according to state law.
"My concern is that if it's part of school grounds, I want to be real
clear where the line is with parental consent and where kids can just
walk in," said Board member Jim Maready.
Board President Frances Costello said she'd like to hear from more
parents before making a decision.
The Del Norte Community Health Center already conducts a teen clinic
on Monday afternoons at 550 E Washington Blvd.
However, health officials said they would like a location more
accessible and private for teens.
Hilda Yepes-Contreras, the manager of the Community Health Center,
said she wants to reach teens not coming to the current clinic - those
that have come in the past requested a private setting.
The proposed clinic would be in the school district's Two Trees
building, 544 W. Harding Ave., where the Healthy Start program and a
counselor are already based. The building is at the south entrance to
Del Norte High School. Castle Rock Charter School and College of the
Redwoods are also nearby.
"We were excited to hear about Two Trees and thought it might be a
convenient and accessible site for teens," said Cheyenne Spetzler,
operations director for Open Door Community Health Centers, which has
clinics in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
The Del Norte Community Health Center has one large waiting room for
medical and dental patients.
The current facility can be intimidating to teens, Spetzler said.
Tara Moss, a physician and coordinator for all Open Door teen
clinics, said the new clinic would be a supportive place for youths.
Del Norte has an "alarming" teen pregnancy rate, she said.
Clinic physicians promote abstinence as the safest choice and talk about
the ramifications of having sex, but also give teens information on
birth control, Moss said.
For girls who are already pregnant, physicians talk to them about
their options: keeping the baby, adoption and abortion - the Community
Health Center does not terminate pregnancies, Moss said.
At Thursday's School Board meeting, Liz Freeman said she was
concerned about "the promotion or availability of abortions" and
suggested that the teen clinic remain where it is now.
She asked the School Board to take some time in considering the
Medical providers also talk to teens about whether they've been
abused or have been pressured into having sex or taking drugs, Moss
The teen clinic would be a place where youths can talk to someone
about being depressed, anorexic, neglected or abused - "someone who can
help youth access services," Moss said.
The School Board's student member, Meghan Webb, said teens need
someone to talk to and that one health class in high school doesn't
prevent kids from having sex.
Benita Cabrera, the facilitator of the Teen Success program, an
effort of the county Department of Health and Human Services and Six
Rivers Planned Parenthood, brought several teen mothers to the meeting.
Speaking for the teens, Cabrera said they are learning how to be a
parent "as they go along" and that they appreciate the information they
receive going to Teen Success meetings, which aims to help teen moms who
are still in high school.
If the information available at the teen clinic had been made more
easily accessible to them "they would have made some different life
decisions," Cabrera said.
Krista Wilson, who said she had been a teen mom, told the board that
going into the waiting office of a doctor's office is "not necessarily
the easiest thing to do ... to walk in and have those faces stare at
Getting there isn't that hard, but it's "what it feels like to be
there," Wilson said.
Annette Short, who said she also had been a teen mom, said that if
teenagers are going to use birth control, they should go to their family
Short said she didn't like the idea of the teen clinic being closer
A lot of teens don't have an adult to talk to, said Board member
Jennifer England. By making the teen clinic more accessible, kids can
gain more information, she said.
Board member Don McArthur agreed that "we should do as much education
as we can ... as early as we can."
The teen clinic should be "a place of their own," he said.