Wilmington Health Access for Teens
Wilmington, North Carolina
In response to statistics showing that Wilmington, North Carolina teens significantly exceeded state and national averages for out-of-home placements, juvenile arrest rates, and substance use, WHAT opened its doors to area adolescents in 1997. Operating initially with generous financial support from the Duke Endowment, the center's mission was--and continues to be--ensuring access for all teens to quality physical and mental health services and providing prevention, education, and outreach services to promote optimal health.
In WHAT's first year, a staff of just six employees served 1,000 teen patients. By the time the center celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2007, more than 12,000 adolescents were receiving services from a staff of 40, including the region's only board-certified adolescent medicine specialist. Most importantly, the region has seen dramatic declines in teen pregnancy rates and the number of teens seeking care for non-emergency services in hospital emergency departments.
Today, WHAT operates a freestanding, not-for-profit adolescent health center as well as two school-based health centers. Staff includes pediatricians, registered nurses, physician assistants, licensed clinical social workers, a registered dietitian, and health educators. WHAT offers a range of physical, behavioral, and reproductive services, including management of chronic illnesses, STD testing and treatment, contraception, lab services, and nutritional counseling.
With an approach that emphasizes family counseling and case management, the center also provides adolescents with comprehensive counseling services for such issues as stress, school problems, relationships, drug and alcohol use, and smoking. The center accepts all insurance arrangements, including Medicaid and SCHIP, and provides services on a sliding scale to the uninsured. Continuing foundation and individual support has allowed WHAT's annual budget to grow to $2.5 million.
Services provided by the center extend beyond physical and behavioral health care. As part of its commitment to community outreach, the center developed a peer education program called SYNERGY that prepares teens to reach out to community youth and facilitate workshops on numerous topics, including bullying, hygiene, and preventing pregnancy and STIs. Staff has recently developed a SYNERGY program especially for Latino youth. Another program, called Question Why Tobacco Prevention Youth Empowerment, teaches adolescents to advocate for tobacco-free policies in restaurants, recreation areas, and other locations. The center also offers two pregnancy prevention programs, including one for young males called Wise Guys.
For more information, please visit http://www.whatswhat.org.