LA County Is Putting Mini Health Clinics On High School Campuses

Outside the Wellbeing Center at Esteban Torres High School in East L.A.

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has opened dozens of "Wellbeing Centers" on high school campuses, providing everything from checkups to mental health services to pregnancy tests.

The county has opened 34 centers — mostly at Los Angeles Unified School District schools — since the beginning of the month, and it plans to have 50 by early next year.

The centers function like mini-clinics, with exam tables and medical supplies. They're open three-and-a-half days a week.

Each center has two Master's level health educators who can talk with students about things like substance abuse and healthy relationships.

The health educators have received training from the Department of Public Health to deal with trauma, depression and stress, which are "increasing so much among adolescents right now," said Ellen Sanchez, the centers' program manager.

'WE WERE ON LOCKDOWN...IT WAS SOMETHING VERY SCARY'

That's welcome news for Josué Molina, a senior at Esteban Torres High School in East L.A., home of the first Wellbeing Center.

Last month, police shot and killed a man who brought a three-foot sword onto Esteban Torres' campus.

"We were on lockdown for pretty much the whole day," Molina said. "It was something very scary. I think this program would have helped us clear our minds away [and] try to focus on the important stuff."

The centers are for students who want to get connected with outside mental health services, too.

According to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health, one out of three teens in L.A. reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in the past year.

"We know that opening these Wellbeing Centers is happening at a really important time in the life of our nation," Ferrer said. "The world for our young people is vastly different, and way more complicated."

PREGNANCY TESTS, BIRTH CONTROL AND MORE

The centers are also seeking student volunteers who will serve as peer leaders. They'll be trained to assist with educational campaigns, and can learn about careers in healthcare.

Planned Parenthood has partnered with the county to provide pregnancy testing, birth control and other sexual health services at five of the centers one day a week. Eventually it will be in all 50 centers.

"What we're essentially doing in the clinics is replicating the services we provide in a school setting," said Anne Matining, vice president of patient services at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles.