From 2018-2020, Will County Health Department Community Health Educators, with the support of the Will County Community Health Center (WCCHC) staff and management team, implemented changes within the Community Health Center to increase the adolescent centeredness/friendliness of the Health Center. This included working with the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative, who guided Health Department Adolescent Health staff and Health Center staff through a process called the Adolescent Centered Environment Assessment Process (ACE-AP). Through this process, the Will County Community Health Center has achieved Adolescent-Centered Environment Certification at the silver level.
To become a Certified Adolescent-Centered Environment, a health center must meet certain criteria, with the goal of making a health center more adolescent user friendly. Some of the criteria the WCCHC met to increase the adolescent friendliness of the health center included creating a colorful, and welcoming adolescent waiting area in both their Joliet and Bolingbrook locations. These waiting areas are furnished with multi-colored chairs, smart phone charging stations, inviting floor decals defining the space, and colorful adolescent health education materials and posters. In addition, the WCCHC staff have gone through adolescent minor consent and confidentiality training, and teen brain development training, which has helped to increase staff awareness and sensitivity to the needs and rights of adolescent patients.
According the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative, Adolescent Champion Health Centers (those who complete the ACE-AP Process) demonstrate significant improvement in adolescent patient satisfaction, provider comfort and confidence caring for adolescents, and an increase in provider and staff knowledge of confidentiality and minor consent laws. Staff at Will County Health Department’s Community Health Center care about adolescents, so working towards and receiving this certification was important to them.
High-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse, unsafe sexual activity, interpersonal violence, and suicide are the primary cause of disease and death in adolescent patients ages 12 to 21. To compound the problem, adolescents are less likely than other age groups to access needed health care services, including annual well-care visits, where these high-risk behaviors can be discussed and addressed with a trusted health care provider. By creating a more adolescent friendly environment, adolescents are more likely to open up to their provider about struggles they may be having, including struggles they may not be as comfortable sharing with a parent.
If you are an adolescent, between the ages of 11 and 21, or the parent of an adolescent, and are looking for a medical home that can provide a warm and welcoming adolescent environment, call the Will County Community Health Center at 815-727-8670. We look forward to seeing you in our COVID safe environment!
For information on additional WCCHC services available to adolescents, such as Behavioral Health, Dental, the Teen Clinic, or Family Planning Services, please go to http://willcountyhealth.org/chc/chc-adolescent-health/.