School-Based Clinics Provide Much Needed Mental Health Care for Urban Adolescents

School-based health clinics are designed to address many student needs. For inner-city children, school-based clinics may provide the only type of medical and psychological care they receive. Teens living in urban settings experience similar concerns as other teens. In particular, they are worried about their ability to pursue a career, earn an income, and develop healthy relationships. But urban teens are exposed to other conditions that can negatively affect their mental health. Minority populations are more likely to experience abuse, substance misuse, violence, homelessness, poverty, and single-parent households than other populations. Additionally, teens living in these environments usually have physical health problems resulting from their environments, including increased stress, obesity, and diabetes. Because of this, the importance of making available adequate mental and physical health care cannot be understated.

Pam Gampetro, a family nurse practitioner at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, recently assessed the value of an inner-city school-based clinic based on interviews conducted with adolescents who received services there. The clinic was available 5 days a week at no cost to the children and was positioned in an urban school that was set in a highly risky environment. Gampetro analyzed the comments of 18 teens, ranging in age from 12 to 18, and found that the students’ main concern was having access to health services and coping strategies that would allow them to successfully navigate the distressing and high-risk environments in which they lived. The teens were acutely aware of their need for specific mental health services when warranted and were able to realize the positive benefits of receiving such care through the clinic.

The students in the study were also aware that the clinic was probably the only medical treatment they would receive because other services were not available to them. This was encouraging to the students and motivated them to ask for help, physically and mentally, when they needed it. Gampetro believes that this clinic has proven to be successful in accomplishing its goal of providing available mental and physical health care services to teens who might otherwise not receive them due to their financial and social circumstances. She believes that these programs are invaluable to students, schools, and communities with limited access to care and are able to provide them with education and resources that cover a broad spectrum of issues. Gampetro added, “Adolescents interviewed in this inner-city school-based health clinic received comprehensive care that addressed medical illnesses and trauma, mental health concerns and crises, nutritional monitoring, and age-specific sexual education and contraception counseling.”

Gampetro, P., Wojciechowski, E. A., Siarkowski-Amer, K. (2012). Life concerns and perceptions of care in adolescents with mental health care needs: a qualitative study in a school-based health clinic. Pediatric Nursing, 38.1, 23-30.

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jewel


    March 16th, 2012 at 5:40 PM

    This is just an awesome idea, to make health care so accessible for this community which in general needs it so much. Access to free health care is always an issue for thos the most in need and this appears to be an answer to a problem that has plagued numerous inner city communities for years.

  • Olivia


    March 17th, 2012 at 7:19 AM

    I too love this idea. Think of the times where these kids have to come to school sick because there is no one there at home to feed them or take care of them. When school is your only refuge then it only makes sense to have this kind of care available for the children there as well. I hope that there are the resources to begin to develop this idea in cities where it is needed nationwide and that this is not just a one shot grant deal that means when the money is gone the clinics are gone too. This is an idea that is too good, too necessary, to allow to go unfunded.

  • Rashad


    March 17th, 2012 at 11:33 AM

    What if the parents of these kids are thinking that maybe this is a little too much getting in their business?

  • les h

    les h

    March 18th, 2012 at 5:32 AM

    The tricky part about this is that while you can control the environment that these kids face at school, that is going to change nothing about the hardships that they are living with at home. You can’t chnage if mom and dad are harming the kid, or in general allowing the kids ot live in a home environment that is not going to be in sync with what the school clinics are offering. I don’t want to be negative, and I do think that this is good to have this kind of help available to students; but I also know what an uphill battle it will actually be to see real success for many of these children when you are up against so many obstacles to begin with.

  • Kate


    March 18th, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    In-school counseling and help is great for students.I remember having consulted my school counselor when my grades were low.The appointments were not enforced but were by choice.The best part was that the service was free and this is very important because a lot of school students may not be able to afford private service otherwise.

  • Joanne


    March 19th, 2012 at 4:27 AM

    But we have to remember that this is not going to be extensive care.
    This is still only going to be available during school hours, and it is not like there will be specialists there.
    These are going to be med pros who know a little bit about a whole lot of different things.
    I guess that it is better than them having no care, but still it feels like there needs to be more.

  • Gregory T

    Gregory T

    March 19th, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    Giving students the right amount of comfort level that they need to ask for this help is so critical to being able to provide them with the appropriate kind of care. Many of these children come from such shattered homes that they have lost the ability to know what is and is not normal anymore, and may more are afraid of the ramifications of even asking for a helping hand. It is something that moves me to tears just thinking about the lives of many of these same children who were born with promise but have had that ripped to shreds by being raised in homes that are far less than loving. Whatever it takes to get this back for these kids, that is what they deserve.

  • S.W


    March 19th, 2012 at 11:03 PM

    I’m surprised school based clinics are the only outlet for urban adolescents…Always thought they are much more informed than the rural kids and would have a lot more options…!

  • Ben


    March 21st, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    As I was reading this I was just thinking about the same thing as SW. I too think that the kids on the city would already have a lot of access to care and treatment than kids in a small town setting would readily have access to. It is not that I don’t think that the children in the urban schools deserve the treatment, because of course they do. But what about the children in smaller and more remote communities? Do you think that they have the accessibility to clinics and treatment that they need, sometimes even more because of the lack of care that is actually available to them? I think that this cross section of society is very underserved a lot of times because there are not enough of them to make their voices loud enough to get their concerns listened to and heard. I just don’t want to let one demographic go underserved for the sake of always pouring more and more money into another.

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