Teen Wellness Center provides counseling, condoms and confidentiality

Windows are tinted, voices are low, and complimentary condoms are available upon request. Welcome to the Teen Wellness Center, where teens can come in for safe, secret sexual health services.
As we stepped inside the warm atmosphere of the clinic, we were greeted by a waiting room like any other: magazines, other patients, posters detailing the “ABC’s of Abstinence.”

As journalists, we came with no secrets, but if you desire more privacy, a list on the front desk of every service the clinic provides a silent way of communicating to the receptionist what kind of care you came seeking.

According to registered nurse Patricia, high school students in the district come in most often for emergency contraception, followed by pregnancy and STI tests. The clinic, on Sequoias’ campus off of James Street, also offers counselling, sports physicals and other medical services for students who may not have insurance coverage elsewhere.

If desired, confidentiality is assured.

“Don’t be timid to come in,” said Janette, the clinic’s receptionist. “Nothing’s ever embarrassing to us.”

“Whatever students need, we’re here. Our doors are open, so feel free to stop by and make an appointment,” Patricia, Registered Nurse

Patients range in age from 12-22 and come from the school district and surrounding areas. The clinic’s main demographic is females ages 15-17, but male visitors are becoming more frequent.

“We’re happy when we see males because they’re also sexually active and can be confidentially tested for STIs and treated here. Even if they aren’t going to get pregnant, there is still the possibility of [STI’s] they can obtain and pass on,” Patricia said. HIV/AIDS cases are rare in Redwood City, but the risk of gonorrhea and chlamydia—two of the most commonly-reported STIs in the United States— is real, according to the Center for Disease Control.

For the female patients who come in for emergency contraception, Patricia dispenses the medication, and then helps them get on a long term birth control method, most often birth control pills. Students don’t need parental permission, and the clinic can provide confidential insurance.

For the female patients who come in for pregnancy tests and receive a positive result, the clinic has a counselor who can offer support and guidance. If the patient would like to terminate the pregnancy, the clinic refers her to the nearby Planned Parenthood.

What happens in the Teen Wellness Center stays in the Teen Wellness Center.

“You’re not going to be judged, and we protect your privacy,” Patricia said. “Whatever students need, we’re here. Our doors are open, so feel free to stop by and make an appointment.”