By Dharma Bartram
The Novato Teen Clinic provides free condoms, but so much more. Confidential contraception, STI testing, pregnancy testing and counseling to young adults ages 13 through 21 are also offered.
Kara Vernor, Director of Operations and Planning, described the services provided.
“We provide a safe space where youth can receive free, confidential, bilingual services that result in increased well being, reduced teen pregnancy, and reduced transmission of STI’s,” Vernor said.
Not only does the clinic provide confidential care, but they also accommodate and cater to the needs of people with different backgrounds unconditionally.
“Almost all of our staff is bilingual and the majority are also bicultural,” Vernor said. “We serve everyone regardless of immigration status, and our paperwork is also available in Spanish. Finally, we engage in ongoing cultural competency training that helps us serve a variety of youth from diverse backgrounds in a manner that is effective with, and respectful of, those backgrounds.”
Teresa Solis, the front office receptionist, is one of the first faces patients see when they come into the clinic.
“I check in patients and screen them to see if they qualify for a program so it’s basically all clinical work,” Solis said.
Solis assigns each patient a color, rather than using their name to maintain confidentiality and anonymity. The Novato Teen Clinic also ensures confidentiality by not sending mail or making phone calls to the patients.
“It (The Novato Teen Clinic) gives confidential help to teens that otherwise might not be safe in other environments or with the same understanding like that of the teen clinic,” San Marin junior and Peer Health Promoter Rodrigo Alvarado said.
The Novato Teen Clinic also helps at-risk teens and families who are in tough financial situations to find solutions. Daniela Garcia, the case manager, connects families and youths to resources such as academic and financial programs to help them succeed and prosper.
“The services we provide are not just necessarily focused on reproductive health, which is totally important, but we also focus on the overall well-being of the teen,” said Garcia.
In addition, the clinic provides free confidential counseling.
“I'm glad to help listen to issues that are facing teens, and if helpful, connect them to further services that they might need. I am also glad to put people at ease when they arrive at the clinic, since I am usually one of the first people they see,” said counselor Molly Levit.
Something that makes the clinic special are their teen volunteers (Peer Health Promoters) who help facilitate the Monday Clinic, answer questions, and make teens feel more comfortable. Teens from Novato High and San Marin are part of the program.
“As a Peer Health Promoter, I help out in the waiting room of the Teen Clinic by assisting people with paperwork and answering questions. I'm also a resource at school and in the community for people who need help or have questions about the Teen Clinic,” said Marina Sidlow, a Peer Health Promoter and junior at Novato High.
“I enjoy working here because it’s a way to be involved in my community,” added Peer Health Promoter and San Marin freshman Andrea Martinez.
Peer Health Promoters are able to directly relate to the patients, allowing them to provide insight into why the clinic is important to their peers.
“I believe the Teen Clinic is extremely important for our community because it provides a confidential place for young adults to get the free health services that they need,” said Angel Gregorian, a sophomore at Novato High and Peer Health Promoter. “It also gives young adults control over their own bodies and well being which is really powerful in my opinion.”
Young adults can drop in between 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Mondays or by appointment on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The clinic is located at 6090 Redwood Boulevard. For more information on the Novato Teen Clinic
visit https://www.novatoyouthcenter.org/novato-teen-clinic/ or call (415) 985-5012.