Los Angeles is initiating the conversation about reproductive rights and sexual health — starting in high school. Thanks to a new partnership between the L.A. County departments of public health and mental health and Planned Parenthood, Los Angeles will open 50 well-being centers in high schools across the city starting in 2020. Through these facilities, students will be able to discuss their reproductive health, stress management, and other wellness concerns with accredited educators.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the initiative is working toward providing health and wellness care to underserved teenagers, many of whom may not have access to facilities or centers like these otherwise. Or, in many cases, teens and students may not feel comfortable reaching out to parents or family members with their health issues and questions, especially when it comes to being sexually active.
“It being on campus — there was no excuse not to go,” one high school senior, who chose to remain anonymous, told the LA Times.
Right now, Planned Parenthood already operates five of the 34 currently-open centers in L.A. County. Students who access these locations are offered a range of services, including birth control pills and condoms, tests and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, emergency contraception, and pregnancy testing and doctor referrals. Minors older than age 12 are permitted to get birth control without parental consent and keep their treatment confidential, according to California state law.
Ultimately, Planned Parenthood aims to run all of the clinics countywide, despite an ongoing battle to keep its doors open. The organization has pledged $5 million for the program over the next five years, reports the Los Angeles Times, with the county’s public health department also setting aside about $10 million in the first year.
The initiative reinforces recent research that finds most sexually active high school students in the U.S. make decisions that support their sexual health. According to the Guttmacher Institute, among sexually active students in 2017, nearly nine in 10 had used a contraceptive method the last time they had sex, including a majority (54%) who had used condoms.
“Many young people become sexually active during high school,” said Laura Lindberg, a principal research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute, regarding research findings. “It is critical to ensure that all young people have access to comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health care services to support their sexual and reproductive decision making.”
Unsurprisingly, all students — from high school to college — need the right tools and education to properly inform their sexual health choices. With L.A. County leading the way, hopefully other cities across the country will follow suit and implement programs empowering them to do just that.