St. Louis, Missouri
The SPOT, Supporting Positive Opportunities with Teens, was established in 2008 by clinicians at Washington University in partnership with an AIDS/HIV program and the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Adolescent Center in response to the need for an ambulatory site that could serve teens confidentially, comfortably, and free of charge. Located in a town house space separate from the hospital, The SPOT provides physical, behavioral, and reproductive health care, as well as social and support services such as job and housing searches and crisis intervention to youth ages 13 to 24. Funding for The SPOT comes from foundations, area hospitals, Washington University, SAMSHA, and individuals.
The SPOT is directed by a social worker and is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of health and social services professionals, including a Drop-In coordinator, a behavioral health therapist, a case manager, a psychiatrist, a substance abuse counselor, peer health educators, and also nurses and physicians from Washington University’s Adolescent Center and Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The SPOT is also home to a multidisciplinary team in training where residents, social work practicum students, undergraduate students, and peer educators learn to care for the whole adolescent, and not just simply address the adolescent’s chief complaint. It is open every weekday afternoon with morning appointments available if needed. In just over a year, it has served more than 1,700 youth, the vast majority of whom are African American. Those seeking health care typically come in for sexual health concerns, especially STD testing and pregnancy tests, but are helped to make use of the full range of preventive, physical, and mental health services, as needed.
A unique feature of The SPOT is the Drop-In. This is a large living room area where youth can hang out. In this space, teens have access to free computers, television, food, a kitchen, and, if needed, a shower, a washer and dryer, a phone with free local calls, and even clothing. Teens often spend free time at the center before they begin to use the health and social services resources. In this space, youth are treated as adults and advice is only given if asked.
The Drop-In is also used in the evening as a site for health education and prevention programs. One such program is a 10-week program for young women that focuses on knowledge and awareness of HIV and STDs as well as individual reproductive health and personal growth. Another is a 10-week youth training program to develop leadership skills. In the future, other HIV prevention programs will be offered to enhance the center’s HIV/STD prevention efforts, including a program for women of color and another for young homosexual men.
Central to The SPOT’s philosophy is a commitment to engaging youth in all aspects of the program’s development and building opportunities for fostering their leadership. For example, youth make activity suggestions for the Drop-In space. Organized activities have included an STD jeopardy game, discussions on youth rights with law students, and educational programs on safe relationships, nutrition, and food preparation. Youth also serve as members of the Youth Advisory Committee and meet monthly to consult with The SPOT staff about the center’s services, aesthetics, location, and outreach through Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. Youth also work in the clinic as trained peer- health educators.
For more information, please visit http://thespot.wustl.edu.