For two months last year, 17-year-old Polytechnic High School Senior Amanda Em was sick and didn’t seek treatment. She missed school often because of her health issues, and her lack of focus on her schoolwork caused her to not pass any classes her junior year.
“I had nowhere to turn, I felt like I was going crazy,” Em said.
Em’s story echoes roughly one third of Long Beach high school students who are uninsured and go without basic medical treatment. In the video above she shares her testimony at a student health and wellness forum hosted by Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) last week.
In response to stories like Em’s, many students, teachers and community members are calling for better physical and mental health services for Long Beach students through the use of School Based Health Centers (SBHC).
Essentially, a health center in the school building would provide comprehensive health care services to students. Through a partnership between a school district and a healthcare clinic or hospital, the center can work with parents’ healthcare providers in caring for the student, or provide low-cost services to students and their parents.
“School Based Health Centers do more than just look into your ears,” said Dr. Elisa Nicholas of The Children’s Clinic. Nicholas said that access to an SBHC reduces the number of costly emergency room visits for uninsured students and can help with their overall well-being.
At the community forum, KGA presented their campaign for Wellness Centers and called for the centers to be implemented at Poly, Cabrillo, and Jordan High Schools. According to their research and the high rates of truancy, these locations have the highest need and hold the greatest opportunity for impact.
KGA’s research, which surveyed 500 students at the three target high schools, revealed that approximately one third had no health insurance, and about half of those students who reported having insurance are only covered by Medicare.
In addition, one quarter of respondents said they feel depressed– and for Khmer youth, that numbers doubled. In the video above, several students share their experiences.
“Neighborhoods with a higher concentration of low-income residents have poorer health outcomes,” said Long Beach Preventive Health Bureau Officer Cheryl Barrit, who names the areas in Long Beach that demonstrate the highest concentration of residents in a lower socioeconomic level as North Long Beach, West long Beach, and Central Long Beach.
Barrit agreed that the neighborhoods surrounding Cabrillo, Jordan, and Poly, are the places where wellness centers and counseling services would have the most opportunity to create improvement in the health of students.
There are currently three SBHCs in Long Beach, at Cesar Chavez Elementary, Hamilton elementary, and International elementary school, with a fourth in the works at Roosevelt Elementary.
“We want all of our kids to be healthy and productive, but we need to make sure that we get these resources to the right places,” said Superintendent Chris Steinhauser at KGA’s Community Forum.
For more information about the SBHCs in Long Beach visit TheChildrensClinic.org