Healthy Start’s services not known by all


Celine Lopez

Marriage & family therapist David Grayson describes that students, whether they experience issues with teachers, family or peers, can seek therapy at any time through this program.

As of March 1, over-the-counter birth control is available in California without age restriction. The law, which was signed in 2013 by Gov. Jerry Brown and is just now going into effect, opens access to hormonal contraceptives for women without requiring a prescription from a doctor or consent from parents.

What students may not know is that Healthy Start has been providing similar services for years. “By law, we can give (students) birth control,” Rauzi said, “but since we are on a school campus we ask parents for consent.”

At the beginning of the school year, students receive registration packets including a form asking parents whether they want their children to receive services from Healthy Start. Parents have the option to define which services they don’t want, such as family planning services. Using this practice, Rauzi said Healthy Start has not received any complaints from parents.

Healthy Start provides most types of birth control. IUD is usually recommended for girls who are considered “at risk” and have already been pregnant before. Those who seek birth control pills are usually given a three-month supply in case they do not have the means to access it elsewhere.

“We try to be full-circle,” she said, explaining that the program offers STD testing for sexually-active students who ask for contraceptives. “For a long time we’ve had a really high rate of chlamydia on our campus,” Rauzi said, adding that the same goes for gonorrhea. Students used to be able to get HIV testing through public health, she said, but this service is no longer available despite the demand Rauzi has seen for it in recent years.

Rauzi also said that there’s demand from all genders. “I have as many boys coming in for condoms as I have girls getting birth control.” Rauzi has noticed this increase in sexual responsibility, perhaps caused by more awareness.

The Be Proud, Be Responsible seminar held weekly from October through March, is a state-funded program aiming to educate teens on sex, healthy relationships and decision-making, according to Katrina Garcia, the facilitator of the program. The all-day class was established due to rising rates of HIV and chlamydia in the 15 to 19 age group in San Joaquin County. The seminar was voluntary and students of all grades could attend. “It’s everything you want to know about sex,” Rauzi said.

“It showed all the different ways that diseases can be transmitted,” senior Luis Valenzuela said. He added that once the seminar ended he had learned more about sex and the fact that Healthy Start provides family planning services. Freshman Angel Vasquez said that the seminar was a more comprehensive health class than those she experienced in middle school. Rauzi added that the students were asked to demonstrate the application of a condom on a banana. “It was actually really helpful,” Vasquez said. “I learned a lot of things that I thought I already knew.” She is surprised that a service such as Healthy Start exists on campus. “Some people just can’t go to their parents and ask,” she said. “It’s a safe place to go and get what they need.”

Healthy Start also provides counseling services and therapy. Through the state Minor Consent Law, students can receive these services without parental consent. “The law is really on the student’s side,” Rauzi said. A therapist is on campus every day of the week, two are usually present on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and all four marriage family therapists and the supervisor are there on Fridays. David Grayson, a marriage family therapist who has worked at Healthy Start for three years, said that most of the students they see are depressed, have anger management issues and fight a lot, or have family problems at home. He also said that they see a rise in students with anxiety during finals week.

“It’s okay to cry, to show emotion,” Grayson said. Students receive counseling for six to eight weeks, but Grayson said it’s not uncommon to see long-term problems where students revisit therapists year after year. The therapists cannot prescribe medications but they can refer the students to a doctor with parental consent. Grayson calls the therapy program “a good place to express, decompress.”
Next year, the supervisor and the therapy program will no longer be supported by funding.

“Healthy Start does not have a budget,” Rauzi said. In the second year without a budget, she said, the program needs $6000 to fund the supervising MFT. One source of this funding used to come from Medi-Cal Administrative Activities, but the grant was lost. “I’m actively looking for funding,” she said.

MFT supervisor Nora Williams says the therapy program is vital since most students don’t have access to therapy anywhere else, and guidance counselors are too busy to deal with these problems.

“The great thing about Stagg is that it has the Healthy Start program,” Williams said. The loss of the therapy program, she said, would lead to an increase in fights, suicide, and other issues that, with the help of this program, are not as stigmatized. “I think adolescence is such a difficult time, and it’s really critical to have therapeutic and clinical resources for kids.”

According to Healthy Start’s records, there were 4830 visits to the center in 2015. Of those visits, counseling accounts for 326, medicine for 601, and sex education for 16, among other services.

Junior Alex Qualls, who is a conflict mediator, sees what goes on behind closed doors, reinforcing the overall feeling that Healthy Start is needed. “It’s underappreciated for sure,” he said. “It’s a very valuable resource on campus that students should be taking advantage of.”