Jen Harrison, Medical Office Assistant Bailey McCully, Dr. Kate Evans, Dr. Lori Vogt, Starr Moraff and Emma Ebb pose at Ocean Pier Medical Clinic, which has offered space for the youth health clinic program. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Jen Harrison, Medical Office Assistant Bailey McCully, Dr. Kate Evans, Dr. Lori Vogt, Starr Moraff and Emma Ebb pose at Ocean Pier Medical Clinic, which has offered space for the youth health clinic program. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Youth health clinic pilot project on now in Sidney

Free, confidential space for local youth who have sexual, mental and physical health concerns

There’s a new after-hours clinic in Sidney and this one is for young people who might be reluctant to see their family’s doctor, or who might not have a physician at all.

The Peninsula Youth Health Clinic opened on a trial basis two weeks ago and will be open every Thursday evening from 6 to 8 p.m. in June and July. It’s at the Ocean Pier Medical Clinic on Beacon Avenue, where a youth medical services will be provided by practicing physicians. Services such as prescriptions, pregnancy tests, sports injuries, birth control and more will be offered to youth between the ages of 12 and 24.

“This is a rare opportunity,” said Jen Harrison, Youth and Family Engagement Coordinator with the South Island Division of Family Practice.

Thanks to support by Dr. Kate Evans, Ocean Pier Medical Clinic and Dr. Lori Vogt, Harrison said the youth clinic was able to take its first steps. She added the model they are trying to follow is that of the Victoria Youth Clinic, which is seeing success downtown Victoria.

“But we wanted to do something similar here,” Harrison said.

She noted that a survey of youth in schools showed that only 55 per cent of them would go to their family’s doctor if they had a concern or wanted more information about something like sexual or mental health.

“There are many young people without a family doctor, too,” Harrison said, adding they developed this youth clinic in consultation with School District 63 (Saanich), TransCare BC and Island Sexual Health, among others, to ensure they have the resources available at the free, youth walk-in clinic. At the same time, she said workers reached out to Parkland Secondary School in North Saanich to consult with youth and find volunteers for the clinic.

Emma Ebb and Star Moraff, both 15, are two such volunteers. They said a clinic like this is needed, as some of their peers may be reluctant to go to their family’s doctor to talk about sensitive subjects like birth control.

“I think this is a really good idea,” said Ebb. “There’s one in Victoria but that’s pretty far away. There’s a lot of good things that could happen here.”

She added some youth she’s spoken with have said they’d have used a clinic like this to get information about birth control, as they became more sexually active.

Moraff added she tells her friends the clinic is a confidential space where they can come and ask questions.

Harrison added the clinic has received donations of birth control, such as condoms, but said sexual health is only one component of the services the clinic offers.

Dr. Vogt is a youth psychiatrist and said she’s there to help children and young adults get information and, if required, help them share their concerns with their parents. She said she’s there primarily to take care of youth and make sure they have a way to find support.

Dr. Evans was an instrumental partner in getting the youth clinic pilot project going and was the co-chair of the local team (including the school district) tasked with making it happen.

“It became really obvious … that this was a large group needing help,” Evan said. “There aren’t that many youth services here on the Saanich Peninsula.”

With a population that skews generally towards the elderly, that is a concern — as is the continuing issue of there not being enough doctors on the Peninsula. So, she put up her own time after her regular clinic hours on Thursday nights — with support from her company — to help make it happen.

“There’s no way we would have been able to do this without all of these parts,” added Vogt.

Evans added the organizers are having further discussions with the Victoria clinic and others to see about extending the Sidney clinic’s time to beyond the pilot period. Moraff added the space help ensure youth get the help they need.

“There are gaps out there,” said Harrison, “especially when it comes to mental health issues.”

Evan added this clinic is a point of entry into the health care system for youth who might not otherwise do so.

In the clinic’s first two weeks, word is spreading.

The first night they opened, Harrison said there were five patients. The second Thursday, there were eight.

The clinic is open every Thursday night in June and July at #207 – 2537 Beacon Ave. For information, call or text 250-216-8389.

 

Star Moraff, left, and Emma Ebb are Parkland Secondary School students who are helping get the word out to their peers about the Peninsula Youth Health Clinic, a free, confidential space for youth 12 to 24. (Steven Heywood/News staff)

Star Moraff, left, and Emma Ebb are Parkland Secondary School students who are helping get the word out to their peers about the Peninsula Youth Health Clinic, a free, confidential space for youth 12 to 24. (Steven Heywood/News staff)