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Bringing health care to youth

For 17-year-old Stephanie Diaz, a visit to the San Antonio Health Clinic never seemed like a trip to the doctor's office. It was much more comfortable than that.

With student art adorning the walls and friendly staff assisting each patient, Diaz said the clinic is a safe haven for students searching for help rather than judgment.

"The doctors are really helpful," Diaz said. "You can tell them anything; there's nothing to really be embarrassed about. They won't judge you."

About half of the 100 students at San Antonio High School have utilized the medical and mental health services offered by their new clinic, which was opened last year by the Petaluma Health Center.

The clinic, which opened at the beginning of the school year, initially catered to San Antonio students but has since expanded to include students from neighboring schools as well as other community members.

This fall, the clinic will expand further by opening a second location at Casa Grande High School. In addition to a new location, both schools will also begin offering dental care next year.

"Dental care is a real area of need in Sonoma County," said Nurit Licht, chief medical officer at the clinic. "Adolescents and teens often fall off track in terms of dental care."

San Antonio Principal Rusty Sims said over the last eight months, the continuation school's student population, defined as "at risk," has benefited from the clinic in terms of improved attendance and academic success.

Diaz agreed that attendance was improved among her peers due to the clinic's availability. Students can make an appointment Mondays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The clinic is open to other community members from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. those days.

"Students take the medical and counseling services seriously, because it's a chance for them to not miss school and be able to go to their appointment," Diaz said.


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