Niche Medical Center Targets Teens and Young Adults
A new Meharry clinic is reaching out to teens and young adults, a group often overlooked
by the medical community.
Many of them struggle with issues such as bullying, self esteem, dating, angst, drug use, eating disorders and depression.
But, unlike adults who see primary care physicians and younger children who are treated by pediatricians, teens and young adults often fall through the cracks when it comes to their medical care because they don’t have a dedicated provider.
Compounding the problem is the fact that some older teens and young adults in their early twenties don’t seek care because they may not be eligible for coverage under their parents’ insurance plans.
The Meharry Youth Health and Wellness Center is stepping in to fill this void.
The wellness center, located inside the Youth Opportunity Center at 1704 Charlotte Avenue, offers specialty services for 14 to 24-year-olds.
Wellness services include tobacco treatment, alcohol and drug relapse prevention, anger management, stress reduction along with HIV/AIDS education, counseling and testing.
Additionally, medical students from Meharry and physicians from the Meharry Medical College departments of pediatrics and family medicine provide services such as physical examinations, pregnancy testing and screenings for sexually transmitted infections.
“The services for young people tend to be scattered across different agencies and there was no central place for them to receive health care,” said Meharry’s Paul Juarez, Ph.D., an expert on teen aggression and youth safety. “We want to be a medical home for them, providing traditional health care, behavioral health services and prevention.”
Center Director Freida Outlaw, Ph.D., said the wellness center is a type of one-stop-shop for youth where all of their unique health needs can be met. For example, Outlaw said, the center is a HIV testing and counseling site. Youth who consent to testing are educated and tested for HIV on-site. “Anyone who tests positive receives counseling and is connected to supportive services for medical treatment at the center right away,” said Outlaw.
Outlaw said the center focuses on at-risk youth and will have a special outreach to teens and young adults who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered or questioning their sexual identity.
“These are populations of youth that have not been served by health care providers,” Outlaw said, adding that this group has a higher suicide rate and males have a higher rate of HIV infections. “They are a health disparities group that has been neglected and we want to provide comprehensive, supportive and evidence based medical care for them in a compassionate and youth oriented setting.”
Wellness center employees go out into the community to recruit clients. They also accept referrals from juvenile court and the youth serving organizations in the Youth Opportunity Center building such as the Oasis Center, STARRS and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
The center is funded by a grant from the Office of Minority Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.