In an effort to better address the social, emotional, and sexual health needs of young people, Planned Parenthood is bringing its services to high schools in Los Angeles. The landmark program will see 50 Wellbeing Centers open on the campuses of high schools throughout Los Angeles, providing students with access to health care services, education, support, and more.
“All young people deserve to have the education, resources, and skills they need to make informed decisions about their health, their relationships, and their futures," Alexis McGill Johnson, the interim president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement issued Wednesday. "Too many young people don’t have access to the health care or information they need to live their healthiest lives — and these Well being Centers are helping to change that."
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which has partnered with Planned Parenthood Los Angeles and a number of other Los Angeles County agencies for the program, described the Wellbeing Centers as safe spaces for students to receive a variety of health services and support for living healthy lives. "The school-based Wellbeing Centers present both safe places to learn and talk freely about many of the stigmatizing issues our kids face on a daily basis as well as avenues of access to direct, quality services when indicated," Dr. Jonathan Sherin, the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health, said in a statement.
While on-campus Wellbeing Centers are currently open at just five high schools, plans are in place to expand the program to include 50 schools over the next two years, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Each Wellbeing Center will be staffed by two health educators who hold Master's degrees in Public Health. Through what the Department of Public Health stressed would be "age-appropriate, evidence-informed curriculum," these educators provide high school students with information about a variety of topics including, consent, healthy relationships, substance abuse, behavioral and sexual health, and social and emotional well-being.
The centers will also include reproductive health clinics, giving students access to contraceptives, pregnancy tests and referrals, as well as treatment and tests for sexually transmitted infections. As The Los Angeles Times has pointed out, California law gives students over the age of 12 the right to obtain birth control without parental consent.
Born out of a collaboration between a number of local partners, including the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the county's Board of Supervisors, the program is expected to cost at least $12 million to run for the first year, according to The Los Angeles Times. Overall, the goal of the on-campus Wellbeing Centers is to make health services and health education more accessible for young people.
"This groundbreaking program means that students don't have to worry about missing school just to access the quality health care, education, and resources they need," McGill Johnson said. "This program is an example of how communities can work together to listen to the needs of young people and get them the resources they need to protect their health and plan their futures."