Saturday, October 4, 2008
Clinic offers sex education, substance abuse services to students
By SUZANNE NORMAND BLACKWOOD firstname.lastname@example.org 259-8268 • October 3, 2008 Sex education will be a strong focus at the new clinic that opened at Glencliff High School through a partnership with United Neighborhood Health Services. The clinic also discusses with students matters concerning substance abuse. The clinic does not provide contraceptives, but it does offer pregnancy tests and screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Although parents are generally entitled to information about their children's health in Tennessee, exceptions include pregnancy tests, concerns related to substance abuse, and screenings and treatment for STDs. "We follow the rules of HIPAA," said Luz Salazar, a nurse practitioner at the clinic, referring to the federal healthcare confidentiality law. Students have the right to confidentiality, she said. The only exceptions are if a student's life is in danger or the student is threatening to harm someone else. If a student reveals that he or she has been experimenting with drugs, Salazar said she first talks to the student about the situation. If the student has a serious problem, she refers him or her to Project SELF, a school-based substance abuse treatment program for youths. A social worker from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and a psychologist from mental health care provider Centerstone also work with Glencliff students. In Tennessee, those age 16 or older may seek counseling without parental consent. Parents also don't have access to information exchanged during sessions with school counselors unless a student is threatening to harm himself or herself or someone else. "We'd rather have them talk to somebody than do something wrong," said Salazar. She said students might not get help if confidentiality were not protected. "We are patient advocates," she said. "We're not here to judge them; we're here to serve them." Private policy has pros, cons Salazar said most parents don't challenge confidentiality policies. "Parents most of the time want the best for their children," and that may mean giving them some privacy, she said. "I agree with that," Pamela Stiles said about the policy. Stiles' niece, Bobbie Jo Puryer, lives with her and is a senior at Glencliff. Stiles, who also has children of her own, said teenagers sometimes need someone personally they can go to with issues. Parents might overreact and not know how to handle the situation. It often helps to have an objective adult who is emotionally detached from the situation and can offer professional advice, she said. Also, said Stiles, teenagers will often listen to other adults before they will listen to their parents. "It's a good thing that students have a place they can go and feel comfortable," said Maria Bernabe, a sophomore at Glencliff. A student with an STD, for example, might delay seeking medical care if he or she fears that his or her parents might find out. Then, by the time the student gets help, it's too late, Maria said. Sophomore Jessica McCarroll said that sometimes parents should be involved. After all, whatever is going on with the teenager may involve changes that need to be made by the parents, she added.