A local nonprofit health-care provider is launching a program in Shoreline this month to give teenagers and young adults access to low- and no-cost confidential health services.
International Community Health Services (ICHS) will open the program on Sept. 21, with an open house event to be held on Sept. 14 at 5 p.m. It will run from 3 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and will be staffed with a clinician and a behavioral health specialist. Appointments and walk-ins will be available.
The program will offer young people between the ages of 14 and 26 services, which will be priced based on the patient’s ability to pay and insurance status.
ICHS decided to begin the program after a community outreach process revealed that there are no other options for young people to receive confidential health care in the Shoreline area, said Megan Wilbert, a nurse practitioner and clinician for the clinic.
“They were taking the bus to Northgate to Planned Parenthood to get access to birth control,” Wilbert said.
The new program will be a block away from Shorewood High School.
In an informal survey conducted by ICHS staff during site visits, 54 percent of young people polled said they didn’t know that they had a right to access confidential health services such as counseling or testing for sexually transmitted diseases. A third of respondents said they didn’t share health information with their doctors because of concerns about confidentiality.
According to more formal surveys, lack of knowledge can prevent young adults from going to get mental or reproductive health services.
A 1991 study concluded that only 45 percent of adolescents would try to get help for depression if the doctor had to notify their parents and a 1983 study found that only 20 percent of teenagers would get help for a sexually transmitted disease, drug use or birth control if parental notification was involved.
“There’s a huge issue with young people not accessing care because they’re afraid that someone won’t agree with the decisions they’re making,” Wilbert said.
Rather than postpone opening the program, ICHS will pay for the new program out of pocket until other sources of funding come through. Instead, it will launch around the two-year anniversary of the ICHS Shoreline clinic.
ICHS opened its doors in 1973 in response to need for culturally-appropriate health care in Seattle’s Asian Pacific Islander community. It has since expanded its services to the entire community and offers other programs for health education and advocacy, children’s nutrition, chronic disease prevention, breast and cervical health and improving access to health insurance.