Clinic rescued by new site, monies

The county-run Teen Wellness Center, a free clinic which treats roughly 2,200 students each year, has been rescued by the school district’s board of trustees and will receive a new home later this year.

The Sequoia High School District’s board of trustees on Wednesday pledged up to $1.3 million to build a new, permanent site for the center, which has been housed in a large portable building on the Sequoia High School campus.

The center faced closure following a state order to move the facilitiesfrom its temporary location. For the last four years, the clinic has served anyone age 12 to 21 — many of whom might not otherwise see doctors when they’re sick or need advice, Clinic Manager Jonathan Mesinger said.

“[The clinic] makes such a tremendous difference in the educational abilities of students” by keeping them in good health and providing support, said trustee Olivia Martinez. “The faculty and staff at Sequoia were adamant about the need for this, and we can surmise that’s the case at all the high schools.”

Run by the San Mateo County Medical Center, the $800,000 per year clinic is fully staffed with a doctor, three part-time nurse practitioners, one nurse and a handful of support staff. The clinic offers a number of services, from sports physicals to birth control, pregnancy tests and substance-abuse treatment, Mesinger said.

All services are free, and many, including reproductive health and mental health, are kept confidential from parents. According to surveys conducted by the county, students have raved about the clinic.

“[The center has] helpful, compassionate staff and a clean environment,” one student wrote. “I feel safe here and supported.”

Without the center, some teens might go to Planned Parenthood sites, which do not offer comprehensive health care, Mesinger said.

“In general, teens don’t seek medical care unless they have a crisis,” he said.

Only one other school district in the county, the Jefferson High School District, offers a full-service health clinic for students, Mesinger said.

The center’s permanent home will be built during the summer months, and should be completed by August, Martinez said. It will remain on the Sequoia campus. Funds for construction will come from existing facilities bonds.

Trustees hoped the medical center would chip in, but the center faces a $5 million deficit this year, spokesman Dave Hook said. However, the county will seek grant money to help reimburse the district.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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