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Two Teen Hubs, a non-traditional access point and a safe environment where young people and adolescents can access a plethora of services, are currently being set up in St. Thomas and Westmoreland.

The services will include HIV testing and counselling, pregnancy test, mental health screening, counselling referral, assistance with homework and School-Based Assessments and skill training.

The first Teen Hub was opened in November 2017 at the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre in St. Andrew through the collaborative effort of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information.

Manager of the Adolescent Unit in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Joy Chambers, said as part of the Ministry’s adolescent programme, “we are going to be establishing two more, one in St. Thomas and one in Westmoreland”.

“We are currently working on that now, because we recognise that even though we try to make the adolescent clinics friendly and safe for them, some youngsters don’t want to go to their clinics because of labelling or to have the community see them going there,” she said.

“So, I do believe the Teen Hub is a viable option where they can access the type of services they want and when they want,” she added.

Ms. Chambers was speaking recently at The Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) annual virtual lecture on adolescent pregnancy, which was this year named in honour of the Centre’s first National Director, Pamela McNeill.

She outlined some of the initiatives that are being undertaken by the Health and Wellness Ministry to reduce teen pregnancy and to make the services friendly for them.

Noting that the Teen Hub in Half-Way Tree, since the pandemic, has hosted a virtual health fair and is exploring others ways to reach the adolescent, she said that it is the desire of the Ministry to have a Teen Hub in every parish.

As it relates to improving the services provided to adolescents, Ms. Chambers said the Ministry has developed several standards and related criteria to ensure that adolescents are provided with quality services.

“We have developed 10 of these standards and about 37 criteria, which are currently being implemented in about 44 adolescent clinics. These are your regular clinics that adolescents attend, but we have scheduled days and times that the adolescents are seen by themselves,” she said.

Ms. Chambers explained that the teen clinics are established to fast-track the services provided to the teens and to avoid them going through the ticketing system and having to wait for an extended period.

“These clinics are open on Saturdays, some of them [for] extended hours, and some are open one day per month, so it really suits the adolescents and it works within their time frame,” she added.

This, she said, is in addition to the Child Guidance Clinic, which offers services to adolescents who are victims of abuse.

“We have about 20 of these across the country to assist us in how we manage these abuses and so we have developed some protocols to assist us in terms of how we manage these abuses, so there is one for suspected victims of trafficking in person, and this is a protocol for healthcare workers, and also we have developed sexual offence protocols for those who have been abused and come to healthcare services for treatment and management,” Ms. Chambers said.

Additionally, she said that approximately 1,000 healthcare worke rs have also been trained over a two-year period to address adolescent needs, noting that it is important to have the right mix of health professionals working with the adolescent population.

“So, even though COVID-19 is here, it doesn’t mean that our services have stopped or have been minimised in any way, but we are trying to make it better and try to address these maladies that occur,” Ms. Chambers said.

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