Education assistant Caitlyn O’Brien

First year of Belmont’s sexual health clinic deemed successful

Every Thursday an average of 14 students will see the school nurse at the clinic, which is the first of its kind in Greater Victoria.

One hand goes for a lollipop while his other reaches to the shelf below for a condom. Within seconds, the Belmont secondary school student pops in and out of the school’s sexual health clinic, followed shortly after by another who comes in while his friend waits just outside the door.

“Do you want condoms?” he asks his waiting friend.

“Sure.”

As the school year comes to an end so does the first year of the Island Sexual Health Society’s clinic at the school. By all accounts it has been well received and well used by students. It’s free, confidential, done on a drop-in basis with no appointments necessary and most any kind of medical examination and testing can be done right in the school.

“There’s just such a need for that age group to access these services,” said Charlotte Brown, a registered nurse at the clinic.  “We’re meeting the needs of them.”

Walking into the clinic students are greeted with shelves of a variety of free condoms (flavoured condoms, female condoms, condoms in packages with packets of lubricant), candy (sour lollipops are the preferred choice) and a friendly assistant to talk to students and help them if they require further services.

Students are able to come to the clinic with most problems and never have to visit a doctor’s office. The clinic is there to give out information, but with a registered nurse on hand it can also administer pregnancy tests, pap tests, prescribe birth control and screen and treat students for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI). If students do need to be referred for other medical attention the nurse can do that as well.

The services the nurse provides are well used. Every Thursday an average of 14 students will see the nurse for a variety of reasons.

“A lot of school counsellors are really cool and have condoms and that kind of stuff, but kids just don’t feel as comfortable,” said Courtney Williams, administrative coordinator. “Whereas, with us, I think they can recognize that nothing is going to shock us, that we’re not going to judge them and that this is what we do everyday.”

The clinic is the first of its kind in a high school in Greater Victoria. The society runs a six-day a week clinic on Fort Street downtown, and a one day a week clinic in View Royal on Tuesdays. But Belmont has the only clinic like it in Langford and the only one specifically for students.

Credit for the idea goes to Sooke School District’s community liaison officer Scott Rothermel. He saw an existing nursing space existed that hadn’t been used in a couple of years. With the right contacts available to him, Rothermel made some calls and got the ball rolling.

“My key is always as much prevention as we can put in place in education the better, and why not sexual health as well?” Rothermel said. “We’d be foolish to think they aren’t active at all. They’re teenagers. So why not have for them the best knowledge and the best protection?”

Funding for the clinic came from a variety of sources, including one-time funding from Telus and West Shore Community Policing. They also got two-year funding from the United Way.

Island Sexual Health Society executive director Bobbi Turner estimated it costs about $10,000 to run the clinic for a school year. The society is still securing funding to keep the clinic going next year, but Turner is confident it will come together.

“It’s been really successful, there’s a lot of interest from the students, and also a lot of the community partners we work with … (have) said how important it is to have something like this.”

The reaction from students has been overwhelmingly positive, say staff, and there hasn’t been a single concern heard from parents, staff or anyone else.

“Our big thing is just making sure people have access to accurate information so that they can make the decisions that are going to be best for them,” said Williams. “We just want to be here for some place that they can come and get whatever they need, in terms of sexual health.”

news@goldstreamgazette.com

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