High schools students in the Sooke School District will benefit from a new health initiative for youth, beginning this month.
Edward Milne Community School, Royal Bay and Belmont will have access to a team of health and wellness professionals who will address the needs of students’ physical, sexual, and emotional wellbeing.
The program starts today (Sept. 14) at EMCS.
The initiative is a collaborative effort between Island Health, Sooke School District and the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
“We’ve worked collaboratively to make this work for students. The school district is offering up space and a reasonable lease, which has been great,” said Kathy Easton, manager of public health for Island Health.
EMCS and Royal Bay will have a physician and nurse working half-day shifts one day a week. In the future, the Belmont medical team will support all three high schools.
At Belmont, the wellness centre is open to all youth in the school district, while EMCS and Royal Bay is expected to service its own students. The intent of having access to primary care and a range of wellness services in high schools is to improve the health of youth, Easton said.
“Youth don’t typically access health-care services, even when they need to, and youth who have health concerns don’t do as well in school as they might otherwise do, and go on to have more health issues later on,” she said.
The service isn’t a test, or a pilot, but a program that is ready to go.
“It’s all about moving that health-care system around to better meet the needs of the youth,” Easton said.
At EMCS, Jennifer Harrison takes on a more direct role as the school’s youth and family engagement coordinator. She will work directly with groups of students (called youth health committees) who seek to reach out to their own peers about mental and physical health.
Harrison said the anticipation is having the youth go and talk to students about the clinics. At EMCS, they’ll go to the homeroom classes and tag classes and tell them about the clinic and why they should stop by.
“The likelihood that the youth will use this clinic is dependent on how much they were a part of the planning,” she said, adding that youth have been giving feedback as to how the space should look like, and how the environment could be more welcoming.
Harrison is excited of her position and optimistic the program will grow.
“It’s really gratifying to work with a bunch of young people who are really motivated to do something that promotes health in their community,” she said.
“This is a learning experience for all of us, and these young people are really motivated, so it’s easy for me to work with them, because in many ways I’m following their lead.”
Harrison pointed out the Sooke community has stepped up as well with donations for the clinic office, including a stereo, as well as several pieces of furniture.
Final details for the medical office at EMCS are still being ironed out, though Easton said it will be a complete office with a proper waiting room, which will be used once a week by a physician and receptionist in rotating shifts.
Did you know?
Last year, a survey based on 359 EMCS students revealed only 66 per cent have a family doctor, while nearly 40 per cent don’t.