Seth Ammerman, MD, Director of the Teen Health Van
"Recently, I met a student on the Teen Health Van. At the end of the visit, I asked her to tell me what she liked about herself. She couldn’t think of anything. I told her there must be one thing you like about yourself. She thought for a while longer and then she said, ‘Well, the only thing I like about myself are my eyebrows.’ Yes, it’s kind of a funny story now, but it gives you an idea about this teenage girl’s low self-esteem. I told her, 'I like your eyebrows too, they're very pretty, but you have other cool stuff going on. You told me you like to draw, which is very creative, and you told me about how you helped a friend who was in need, which is very compassionate.’ Her face lit up, and she started to smile. She had never heard that before. No one in her life had been there to tell her that she is special. It was cool for me to see how in that moment she already seemed more confident. In the time since then that we have worked with her, we have seen vast improvements in her overall confidence and mental health."
“Our focus has always been on uninsured kids. We are a safety net program. Forty percent of our kids are currently homeless or have been homeless with the last year. We also work with at-risk and high-risk youth. A lot of the kids we see have parents in low-earning jobs and, even with the Affordable Care Act, they can't afford to pay health care premiums. We also see LGBTQ youth and kids who have been in group homes, foster homes, shelters and/or juvenile hall. The highest percentage of kids we see are Latino, the second highest are Caucasian. Our patients range in age from 10 years old to 25, but the vast majority are ages 15 to 25."
"Sometimes I feel like I'm working in a developing country because the kids we see don't have the immunizations or medicine they need. We've always seen a lot of mental health issues--such as--depression, we well as psycho-socio issues, obesity, malnutrition, and common adolescent problems like headaches, stomach aches, menstrual disorders, and birth control needs. The biggest change I've seen is that we're treating more and more kids of the working poor. In my opinion, it's a product of the regions's exorbitant cost of living. A lot of these families either can't afford health insurance or they lost it. These are families who were never expecting to need a program like this. We could have two vans running every day of the week. Due to the economic disparities, there are just more people who are struggling financially. I get calls all the time from agencies asking if we can have the van come out, and unfortunately we already have a long waiting list."
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