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.
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