LAUSD, county health officials launch program to open student well-being centers at 50 high school campuses

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- In a landmark move, Los Angeles County health officials launched a landmark program to launch school-based student well-being centers at dozens of campuses.

Before her teachers and peers, Esteban E. Torres High School senior Nancy Meza talked about the high levels of stress students face today.

"There are a lot of people l here who like to bring people down," she said.

From campus shootings to the rising rates of teen depression and anxiety, students feel lost.

Barbara Ferrer, the Director of the L.A. County Department of County Health said, "One out three teens in L.A. reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in the past year."

The Department of Health, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Los Angeles County Office of Education, Planned Parenthood LA and the Los Angeles County of Department of Mental Health announced the opening of 50 student well-being centers to provide students with access to mental health, sexual health and variety of other resources.

Deborah Lowe, principal of Esteban E. Torres High School, said, "Teenagers are significantly more likely to use mental health and sexual and reproductive health services when they are located at their school."

This wellness center at the East L.A. high school is one of the first to open its doors.

L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis said, "It's tremendous to see the enthusiasm of the students and to know that learning is very real for them and it's going to be their key to success."

Research suggests many students in L.A. County schools lack preventative care at an age when the risk is highest for smoking, vaping, unsafe sex and drug and alcohol abuse.

"If this model works in schools, we're committed to expanding this," Ferrer said.

Monica Garcia with the LAUSD board said, "Our county is saying it's okay to have feelings."

Each of well being centers will provide students with a safe, welcome environment where they'll find supportive peers and caring adults responsive to student needs.

Planned Parenthood LA will help provide reproductive health education at the various locations.

Planned Parenthood L.A. President and CEO Sue Dunlap said, "We dream of an amazing future for the young people of L.A. County where our students and our young people can truly thrive."

Having a center on campus means students lose less class time and many students will be involved in helping each other.

"So we have people to talk to and people who will guide us on the right paths," Meza said.

Twenty-nine of the student well-being centers will be on LAUSD campuses. All 50 proposed sites are planned will be opened within the next few years.
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