MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Many elements of the federal health care law have yet to go into effect, but here's a story about one impact the law is already having: health services at some public schools - especially in underserved areas - are expanding beyond a school nurse. Federal money is now funding on-campus clinics. Kelley Weiss takes us to one of them in Los Angeles.
KELLEY WEISS, BYLINE: At Abraham Lincoln High School, students can go from these halls...
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
WEISS: ...across the sprawling campus near downtown L.A....
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Unintelligible)
WEISS: ...to this modest trailer at the back of the school. It's in a neighborhood where houses are missing windows and have peeling paint.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Spanish spoken)
WEISS: Inside St. John's Well Child and Family Center is a full-fledged community health clinic, with doctors and nurses. Senior Jonathan Keener says he comes here for the same reason a lot of other students do.
JONATHAN KEENER: Starting last year, my girlfriend and I, we came here for - I guess you can say safe sex.
WEISS: Keener says he can come to the clinic on his own, without his parents.
KEENER: It's a thin line, having to talk to your parents about - especially sex ed. Your parents would be, like, oh, you know, I'll just - right away, they'll just freeze. They'd rather be talking about what's for dinner.
WEISS: The clinic logs about 1,800 student visits a year. Students regularly duck into to grab pamphlets lining the walls about sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs and pregnancy. Here, they can get condoms or birth control pills and see a doctor or dentist.
Students all say the same thing: They like the clinic because it's confidential. And at least some parents agree. April Casanova-Rios has a son who's a sophomore at the school. When she was a teenager, she says she found things out the hard way.
APRIL CASANOVA-RIOS: I had my son Isaiah at the age of 16, and I didn't know what to do. I didn't have no counseling. I didn't have no one to speak to.
WEISS: Plus there's an added bonus: It's open to Casanova-Rios and her three other children.
Erika Cuevas is the liaison between the health center and the school. She also was once a Lincoln High student. Cuevas points out that since the clinic opened 10 years ago, the school's high pregnancy rate has gone down.
ERIKA CUEVAS: So back in about 2000, there was about 15 to 16 teenagers that I was aware of pregnant on campus. And now, as far as I know, there's about eight students pregnant.
WEISS: That's out of 1,600 students. Cuevas says students need a pass to come to the clinic, and sometimes they get a green card for the so-called sensitive services. That's code for the birth-control pills, STD testing and morning-after pill. And Cuevas says that rubs some parents the wrong way.
CUEVAS: Parents will look through their bags and they'll see that they have this card, and they'll come and ask: Why does my teen have this card? Who gave them permission?
WEISS: She says she explains that in California, it's the law. Teens older than 12 can get these services without their parents' consent. Cuevas says the clinic addresses other issues, too. On a regular basis, she says students come in with rat bites or other health problems from slum housing conditions. And Lincoln High principal Jose Torres says this is an overwhelming job for one school nurse to manage. But with the clinic, he says if students are sick, they can see a doctor the same day.
Back at the clinic is Jim Mangia. He's the CEO of St. John's Well Child and Family Center clinic system. He says school health centers are cost-effective because insurance companies and the government reimburse them for the services.
JIM MANGIA: You know, school-based health centers are really the future, and I think that they say a lot about what needs to be surrounding a school in order to make sure that kids can learn and that they can be healthy.
WEISS: Mangia says a big boost came recently under the federal health care law: a half-a-million-dollar grant. The law set aside $200 million for these centers around the country. So far, 43 states have received funding.
For NPR News, I'm Kelley Weiss in Los Angeles.
BLOCK: And that story came to us from the Center for Health Reporting in Los Angeles.
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