Adolescents all over Cambridge can now get free counseling and medical care from the Teen Health Center, a new branch of Cambridge Hospital, located at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.
The facility, which opened last Thursday, is "like a mini-hospital" with a full staff of physicians, nurses and counselors and is open to all Cambridge youth, according to city officials.
"There was a need for a much more comprehensive facility [for local adolescents] for a range of ailments from poor nutrition to serious diseases to serious depression to other forms of anxiety," said Burt H. Giroux, public relations director for the Cambridge School Department. Parents must give permission for their child to use the clinic.
The center is affiliated with the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, which houses the facility, and will also serve in place of an official nurse's office at the high school.
Proponents of the center, which is the newest addition to Cambridge Hospital's network of six neighborhood health centers, said they wanted a clinic that would be within the boundaries of the school because "students have a certain rapport with the nurses," said Giroux. "If they get referred to some other place, they wouldn't go."
The center, in its planning stages, had debated whether performing abortions or distributing contraceptives were services they wanted to provide, but has ultimately decided not to offer these options to students.
According to Giroux, the United Way, one of the program's principal supporters, threatened to withdraw its $100,000 contribution should the clinic offer such services, and the school board, which was ultimately responsible for the center, capitulated to the United Way's request.
But the center does provide some counseling on these issues. The Center's staff members are "not giving advice, but they are providing students with information," Giroux said. "They are giving them the alternatives. The student makes the final decision." Giroux did say, however, that the staff would help students by providing referrals for abortion and contraception.