Teens have plenty to worry about: making friends, having good grades and playing sports. Regular healthcare doesn’t usually top that list. For low-income families, it’s a struggle to afford basic necessities, let alone medical visits. For teens in those families, the only opportunity to see a doctor is through an ER visit.
Karen Yoder, a single mother with two young daughters, fell into that category. She recently moved her family from New York to Florida and struggled to provide for her family; healthcare options weren’t possible. However, when both her daughters got lice, it became clear that insurance was necessary. That’s when the United Way-funded Teen Xpress was able to step in and help the struggling family.
A program within United Way’s health focus area, Teen Xpress is offered by the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families. Two mobile clinics offer comprehensive care to middle and high school students throughout Orange County. They regularly travel between eight schools in the area and helped nearly 800 students just last year.
During one of their visits, clinic staff heard of the Yoder family’s situation and were able to properly treat and cure the girls’ lice. The school required a doctor’s note to allow students back into class, but one of the Teen Xpress case managers was able to get the situation resolved and get the Yoder sisters back into school.
Besides offering free medical services to students in need, the Teen Xpress offers comprehensive assistance to students, including nutritional guidance and mental health support.
“With many initiatives focused on young children, adolescents get overlooked,” says Marie Martinez, Operations Manager of the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families and Board Member of Heart of Florida United Way. “Our goal is to empower youth to be proactive about their health. We offer a holistic look into their lives with a key focus on education as means of prevention.”
Staffed by a team complete with nurse practitioner and medical assistant, there is also a registered dietician who offers a 6-week course on making healthy choices. Some students live in environments where riding a bike or going for a walk outside isn’t safe, so they will help students develop a plan on how to stay active indoors.
The Teen Xpress goes beyond physical assessments and offers mental health screenings as well. Their counselor regularly meets with students to discuss their concerns, feelings and frustrations and offers support on how to properly handle situations they may deal with at home or at school. Teen Xpress case managers connect with students’ parents, keeping them apprised of their children’s progress and developing plans of action if food or housing assistance is needed.
United Way believes that health and education are key foundations for a successful life. With a growing number of teens diagnosed with obesity, hypertension and heart disease, programs like Teen Xpress play a vital role in keeping students healthy and in school, setting them on the path to self-sufficiency.
For more information on Teen Xpress and the Howard Phillips Center for Children and Families, please visit their website. To find out more about United Way’s work in the community in the areas of education, income, health and basic needs, please visit www.hfuw.org.