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Snoqualmie teen health center planners look at Two Rivers School

Two Rivers Principal Tom Athaneses leads a tour of his school, which is a site option for a proposed teen health center. He said his students, who are less likely to have traditional family support networks, would benefit from easy access to mental and medical care.  - Denise Miller / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Two Rivers Principal Tom Athaneses leads a tour of his school, which is a site option for a proposed teen health center. He said his students, who are less likely to have traditional family support networks, would benefit from easy access to mental and medical care.
— image credit: Denise Miller / Snoqualmie Valley Record

About 20 community members and health care professionals met Thursday, July 10 to discuss site and funding possibilities for a proposed health center for Valley teens.

The group toured Two Rivers School in North Bend, which became a site option when the new Twin Falls Middle School was ruled out as a host.

Two Rivers Principal Tom Athaneses suggested bringing a center to his school, which provides flexible and personalized education options to about 150 students from seventh grade up to age 21.

Because space is tight at Two Rivers, the group is exploring placing a portable on campus, or creating a mobile unit that would also travel to Mount Si High School.

“We don’t have an inch of room, but we still have this need,” said Debby Peterman, who was hired by the Snoqualmie Valley Community Network (SVCN), a local non-profit organization, to lead a task force to determine the feasibility of a teen health center. If the task force determines that the clinic is feasible and beats out other competing communities for state funding, operations would be partially funded through a grant of $75,000 a year for five years.

Peterman planned to call mobile unit operators in other cities to learn more about how they work and how much they cost.

“Two Rivers is a big area of interest. Mount Si High School is of interest to us. It would be ideal to me to serve both,” she said.

Peterman has also met with a real estate agent, and looked at storefronts in North Bend that could potentially house the center.

Student surveys and a focus group session held at Mount Si High School indicated that Valley teens want and need easy access to mental and medical health care, Peterman said.

Two Rivers’ need

Athaneses sees a special need for these services among Two Rivers students, who are less likely to have traditional family support networks, Athaneses said.

Two Rivers doesn’t have a full-time counselor, so giving students access to professional counseling services would be a great help to teachers, who currently do double duty as advisors.

“The students need to be heard, and sometimes they just aren’t,” Athaneses said.

“The mental health things seem bigger than they’ve ever been. Things are weighing on their shoulders more than they used to,” he said.

Teens without health insurance would be much more likely to access care if it were just down the street, and they didn’t have to travel to Bellevue to visit the nearest facility serving students without medical coverage, Athaneses said.

“To get to Bellevue is like crossing a river to these kids. It’s tricky to get to any services,” he said.

More than health?

Mount Si students who participated in a focus group led by the task force wanted access to not only a health center, but also to a drop-in teen center, said Becky Reitzes, who works for King County’s health department.

“They wanted a place to play pool, watch movies, and hang out,” as well as confidential health care, Reitzes said.

Though a great idea, such a center is beyond the scope of the current health center planning grant, Peterman said.

“We don’t want to let that dream go, but we’re looking at the feasibility of a health center. We have these grant obligations,” she said.

Still, the adults at the meeting were excited about the possibility of a drop-in center.

Anji Donaldson, an insurance agent in Fall City, suggested setting up a center connected to a youth-run business, like a smoothie shop or T-shirt screening operation, that could generate sustained funding.

“Let’s think big,” said Suzanne Wietting, a community liaison for Fairfax Hospital, a behavioral health services facility in Kirkland. “Let’s think about getting our own local coalition together” to create a teen center.

Next steps

The July 10 gathering was the last of three community task force meetings, but the SVCN will continue exploring options for the center.

The SVCN will present student survey data, and give a planning report to the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce at its July 18 meeting.

The teen health center will also be a topic at this year’s Key Leaders Summit, a meeting sponsored by the SVCN and Snoqualmie Hospital with the goal of promoting health and well-being in the community. The summit will be held at the Grange Cafe in Duvall on Monday, August 11 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both elected and self-appointed community leaders are invited; to RSVP, e-mail to svcn@msn.com, or call (425) 333-6614.

To compete for state funding, the SVCN must submit its proposal for the teen health center by September.

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