Los Angeles–On Wednesday, officials from the County of Los Angeles , including the Board of Supervisors, the Departments of Public Health (Public Health) and Mental Health (Mental Health), Planned Parenthood Los Angeles (PPLA), the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE), and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) announced a groundbreaking effort to address the social, emotional, and sexual health needs of young people throughout Los Angeles County. At a press conference held at Esteban E. Torres High School in East Los Angeles, the coalition of partners announced the opening of Wellbeing Centers (Centers) at 50 high schools to create a safe space on school campuses where students can receive health affirming services and support they need to lead healthy lives.
Research suggests that many youths enrolled in LA County schools may lack preventative care at an age when risk is highest for uptake of smoking/vaping, for unsafe sex and other unhealthy behaviors including use of alcohol and other substances. The Centers will offer services to educate students for lifelong protective practices and promote social/emotional well-being, youth leadership, and sexual health. These spaces will be youth-friendly and will provide students with a safe, welcoming place where they will find caring adults, supportive peers and integrated services.
“Empowering our teenagers is a priority. We must support the well-being of our youth so they can thrive at school and view their futures with optimism and hope,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis. “Wellbeing Centers provide students a safe space to receive information and resources on substance use prevention, sexual health, and mental health. When we invest in our youth, we all win. Our teenagers will grow to become our future political leaders, artists, teachers, and scientists. I am proud LA County’s first Wellbeing Center will be located at Esteban Torres High School, in the heart of the First District.”
Each Center is staffed by two Public Health Master’s level Health Educators, who will facilitate classes, educational groups, and activities aimed at equipping teens with information about substance use prevention, behavioral health, and sexual health, as well as the skills they need to have healthy relationships, protect their health, and plan for the future. Through in-Center and in-classroom activities, the Health Educators deliver an age-appropriate, evidence-informed curriculum that complies with California Healthy Youth Act (CHYA) requirements with added emphasis on behavioral health, substance use and social and emotional well-being.
PPLA will provide a full range of sexual health services one day a week at Bell High School, Esteban E. Torres High School, South East High School, South Gate High School, and West Adams Preparatory High School, with the intent to expand to all 50 schools on a rolling basis over two years. DPH will provide limited sexual health services until PPLA has joined the Wellbeing Center at each school as well as substance use education and referral. DMH will run mental health support groups around a range of teen concerns, including stress, anxiety and depression. They will also offer linkages to community mental health providers for students with more intensive mental health needs and advise DPH Youth Educators on any student mental health concern that arises in the course of health education discussions.