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Dear LA County Community,  


BARBARA FERRER PhD, MPH, MEd
DIRECTOR, LOS ANGELES COUNTY
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
OCTOBER, 2019


Adolescence is a time of tremendous change and self-discovery, when a child starts to blossom into young adulthood and begins to form various notions of their personal identity. When they are supported by adults who provide opportunities to learn, grow and strengthen their skills for self- sufficiency, this period can be a launch pad for their future success. And when it comes to their health, adolescents who are equipped with the information and tools they need to make life-affirming choices experience a higher quality of life for themselves and can support their peers in doing so as well. Unfortunately, a variety of societal factors create environments where far too many teens spend their high school years feeling disengaged, disrespected and powerless, leading far too many of them to search for methods of momentary relief that donít serve them well. As a result, we see data that tells a shocking but preventable story, such as:

  • One in three LA teens reported feeling sad or hopeless almost every day for two or more weeks in the past year, with 23.5% of the girls and 9.6% of the boys seriously considering suicide.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 use cannabis on a regular basis and almost half drink alcohol.
  • This age group experiences the highest rate of chlamydia, a sexually-transmitted infection.

These problems have a direct impact on their academic performance, as well as their social, emotional, and physical wellbeing. When students are depressed, involved in abusive relationships or clouded by regular marijuana use, it may be impossible for them to learn at a rate that allows them to keep pace with the academic demands they face. For far too many, just showing up to school can be difficult.

But hope is out there, and help is on the way. We are proud to announce that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (Public Health) is entering into an exciting new partnership with the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and Planned Parenthood to address the social, emotional and sexual health needs of adolescents while keeping them safe and in school. Public Health will be opening new Wellbeing Centers on 50 high school campuses throughout LA County, where teens can experience youth-friendly support services, and spend time in an emotionally affirming environment.

Designed within a Positive Youth Development framework, the Wellbeing Centers will be a safe space for students. The Wellbeing Centers will be staffed by Masterís level health educators who are uniquely prepared to listen, offer honest information, education, and support to the young adults they serve. These highly qualified educators will meet with students one-on-one, facilitate constructive group sessions, and deliver a comprehensive supplemental curriculum in available health classes. Education and services for substance use prevention, mental and sexual health will all be available at all the Wellbeing Centers.

Through leadership training and civic engagement opportunities, interested students will serve as agents of change, utilizing their energy and creativity to develop campaigns and wellness activities designed to educate other students, ultimately creating a climate of wellbeing throughout their campus communities. As peer educators, these students will earn a stipend and valuable experience for their college and employment resumes. Most importantly, they will experience the power that comes through living a life of purpose. In order to support the students in all areas of their lives, the Wellbeing Centers will also offer classes to parents on adolescent development, health issues, and strategies for communicating effectively with their teens about sensitive issues.

Ultimately, we all want to ensure that students are given every opportunity to grow into their fullest potential, feeling loved without prejudice, as they walk confidently into their brightest futures. We believe the Wellbeing Centers will play a critical role in accomplishing this important mission.

For more information about the Wellbeing Centers, please contact Ellen Sanchez, esanchez@ph.lacounty.gov.

Until next month, wishing you peace and health,  

Barbara


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