Youth health centre access – parental consent only?

Abbotsford school trustees want parental consent to be a requirement for students accessing a youth health centre.

Some Abbotsford school trustees want parental consent to be a requirement for students accessing a youth health centre recently approved for the Bakerview Centre for Learning.

The board of education approved at its public meeting on April 16 that the health centre be part of a “hub” at Bakerview, but three trustees were opposed.

Korky Neufeld, Shirley Wilson and Cindy Schafer said they would not be comfortable supporting the project, unless parental permission was guaranteed (for students under the age of 18).

“As long as they’re under our (the school district’s) care, I would lean towards parental consent,” Neufeld said.

The Abbotsford Youth Health Centre (AYHC) began operating out of Abbotsford Regional Hospital  in November 2010, offering services for young people ages 12 to 24 every Tuesday and Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.

AYHC development consultant Brian Gross said many of these youth are not comfortable approaching their parents with their health concerns, or they do not have a family doctor.

The centre, which is staffed by a physician, deals with basic health issues such as colds and coughs, but can also handle more serious problems such as depression, substance use and sexual health.

Patients do not require parental consent to access the service.

Gross said the centre has seen almost 200 kids from the community, and 30 per cent of those have been from Bakerview, an alternative education program located on Marshall Road for people ages 14 to 65 years.

AYHC wanted to be more accessible to those students by offering services at the school one day a week for three to four hours as part of a “hub” that also includes social workers, probation officers, drug and alcohol counsellors, and a street outreach worker.

The health centre would be available to Bakerview students, but might also be open to the community, Gross said.

Schafer said the school district has “an obligation to parents” to ensure the health and welfare of their children while in the district’s care, and parental consent should be a requirement for Bakerview students using the clinic.

Kids who do not have such permission would still have the option of visiting the clinic at Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Although that location is guaranteed only until August, Gross said other sites are being considered to ensure a community-based option remains.

The board of education voted 4-3 in favour of providing the space at Bakerview as of this September. The issue of parental consent will be discussed at the public board of education meeting on May 7.

AYHC is part of Abbotsford Community Services and has a co-ordinating committee made up of representatives from various local agencies. Visit ayhc.ca for more information.

Health centre stats

Statistics from Abbotsford Youth Health Centre’s first year of operation (November 2010 to November 2011):

  • 66 per cent of patients were sexually active;
  • 43 per cent said they had sex when they didn’t want to
  • 20 per cent said they have been offered valuables for sex
  • 36 per cent said their sexual activity has resulted in pregnancy
  • 69 per cent drink alcohol
  • 58 per cent smoke cigarettes, and 47 per cent say they are “totally hooked”
  • 53 per cent use marijuana
  • for those who have used other drugs, the biggest category (31 per cent) was cocaine, followed by hallucinogens (22 per cent) and opiates (20 per cent), while none had used ecstasy.
  • 47 per cent said something horrible or traumatic has happened to or around them.