The Just Teens Clinic in High Point is helping fill the gap in health care for adolescents and wants teens to know that there is a place just for them.
The clinic opened July 10 and serves ages 12 to 19, with a particular focus on 15- to 19-year-olds.
Teens fall through the cracks in terms of health care, said LaTanya Pender, the clinical nurse manager at Just Teens Clinic. Little kids see a pediatrician regularly, but from about middle school until college, they only see a doctor if they are sick, she said. They need regular checkups, too.
“There is a wellness component to being an adolescent,” Pender said.
The goal of the Just Teens Clinic is to promote wellness for teens and help them make good choices in terms of their overall health, sexual health and reproductive health.
“We want them to make good choices now so they are healthy later on in life,” Pender said.
Within the 27260 ZIP code, teen pregnancy rates are three times the Guilford County rate. This concerns health professionals like Pender who work with teens. She wants to help reduce that rate.
“The 27260 zip code is such a small area for such a high rate of teen pregnancies,” she said.
The Just Teens Clinic offers immunizations, STD screenings, pregnancy tests and long-term birth-control options in addition to regular wellness checks.
Pender said she prefers that teens wait to have sex, but if they don’t wait, she wants them protected and safe. Long-term birth-control options are better for teens, she said, because there’s no worry about forgetting to use birth control.
A three-year grant from the Foundation for a Healthy High Point made the opening of the clinic possible. The Guilford County Department of Public Health has been providing the same services to teens for years, but this grant allowed them to create the confidential space within the greater clinic at the health department’s High Point location that includes a separate private waiting room, fully equipped exam room and lab, Pender said.
The clinic was also able to hire a full-time nurse, Jennifer King Fairley, who was a school health nurse for many years in High Point. Many teens who come to the clinic already know her, and her presence helps put them at ease.
For Pender, it is crucial to build trust with the teens who come to the clinic. She wants them to see it as a safe place to ask questions. All visits are confidential. Teens who visit the clinic do not need to come with their parents but are encouraged to talk to their parents about their visits.
Most of the teens who come to the clinic do so for issues related to sexual health, but while they are there, staff members make sure they are caught up on vaccines; taught overall health and wellness, including healthful eating and exercise habits; and given information about local colleges and youth programs and activities in the community. It’s all about maximizing the opportunity with a captive audience, Pender said.
“In the waiting room, we have a college corner and a vision board where teens are encouraged to write their dreams and goals,” Pender said. “We want to work with the whole person because all the small aspects add up to who they become as a person. The here and now affects where they may end up in 10-15 years.”
The Foundation for a Healthy High Point hosts roundtable discussions to allow other agencies in the area a chance to meet and work together to provide a holistic approach to helping teens.
“We’re excited about all the opportunities in the community that will come from agencies coming together to promote teen wellness,” Pender said.
The Just Teens Clinic operates Monday through Friday and will soon add some evening appointments. No one is turned away for services. Appointments are preferred, but if someone walks in, the staff will do everything possible to see and serve that client.
The clinic is not just for young women, and it’s important for young men to be seen, Pender said. She said so much emphasis is put on females that she doesn’t want the males to be neglected in terms of health care and she wants the young men to get the same services and information as the young women who come to the clinic.
“Prevention is key. Rather than act like the problem doesn’t exist, we’ve got to help teens be successful,” Pender said. Her goal and hope is that the clinic helps teens make overall better decisions that will lead them to a lifetime of success.