Campbell River youth are more at risk for teen pregnancy than their B.C. counterparts, according to a local youth society that recently delivered some sobering statistics to city council.
Members of the Sexual Wellness and Education Society of Campbell River said the facts are a “major concern” and are an indicator that the community could benefit from expanded programming and service.
The society currently operates a Youth Clinic out of Robron Centre but it’s only open Thursday afternoons from 2 to 5 p.m. Island Health provides the clinic with public health nurses, obstetricians and local General Practitioners while the John Howard Society provides an outreach worker. School District 72, which provides the space, the Altrusa Club and Daybreak Rotary also partner in the operation of the clinic.
“The youth clinic is a safe place for youth to be able to go and meet with health officials,” said Kate Gigiel, president of the Sexual Wellness and Education Society. “A number of reports show Campbell River needs this type of service, it’s needed greatly.”
Dr. Philip Asplin, a society board member, said according to the Chief Medical Officer’s 2014 report, Campbell River youth are “more likely to engage in sexual intercourse and oral sex when compared to other B.C. youth” and “they’re more likely to give birth to a child when under the age of 20 than other B.C. youth.”
He said Campbell River teens are also “having unprotected sex and combing drugs and alcohol with their sexual activity.”
Asplin said those statistics should not be taken lightly.
“These are all facts of major concern and should be to everybody who lives in this town,” Asplin said. “We know that making healthy choices helps young people achieve their education and career goals, making a positive impact on the local community.”
To that end, society members said the youth clinic is there to help youth make those smart decisions and to also offer guidance and support to those who find themselves in a difficult situation.
“When youth come into the clinic, often of course they’re scared and alone and need pregnancy testing,” said Kelsey Creviston, secretary of the society. “They leave with not just birth control but also education. We connect them with a (doctor) if they are pregnant and other community workers.”
Creviston said the clinic has been a big win for the society which offers STI (Sexually Transmitted Infection) testing, pap smears, vaccines, affordable contraceptives, education, and referrals to other health agencies.
In 2010, the clinic dealt with 80 patients in its first year and last year, there were 530 client visits, said Barb Preston, a school counsellor who also serves as vice-president of the society.
“Our numbers keep going up,” she said.
And the society wants to do more.
It wants to extend its operating hours so that more youth are able to attend the clinic, which is run on a drop-in basis, and the society is also considering moving out of Robron Centre.
“We were thinking about a downtown, central location on a bus route,” Preston said. “That would be ideal.”
Creviston said the society would like to form a closer relationship with the city, which it signed a memorandum of understanding with in 2010.
Preston said the society, in addition to expanding and possibly re-locating the youth clinic, is also eying an upgrade for its website.
“We have a Facebook page and we do have a website but it is pretty basic and we don’t have the funding to make it what kids are looking for these days,” she said.
For more information on the youth clinic and the Sexual Wellness and Health Society, visit www.cryouthclinic.ca or the Campbell River Youth Clinic Facebook page.