For many people, birth control is a necessity. Whether it is used to prevent pregnancy, provide comfort when dealing with a reproductive medical condition, lessen the symptoms of PMS, control acne, or anything else, birth control is a daily part of many women’s lives across the world. As young adults, it is important to know and understand what their options for birth control and sexual health services are, and how to take advantage of them.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, teen pregnancy rates in Oregon have dropped by roughly 65% since 1991,but pregnancy and reproductive health are still issues that teens need to consider when becoming sexually active. In a survey, 10% of teens said that they do not know how to go about accessing reproductive health services, and 73% said that they do not believe birth control is easily accessible. However, many students seem to be unaware of the services offered at the School-Based Health Centers (SBHC), medical clinics on the grounds of a school that offer primary care to students and their families.
Franklin’s Student Health Center is an awesome place with friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere. It is a health clinic that is sponsored by the Multnomah County Health Department and “serves all youth from kindergarten through [high school] graduation,” according to Sarah Jayne, a registered nurse who works in Franklin’s Health Center. The Health Center offers a wide variety of services, like routine physicals and wellness exams, vaccinations, mental health and counseling services, reproductive health services, and many more. In the 2017-18 school year, their services helped nearly 650 students.
One concern that many teens have when seeking reproductive services is the cost. Many are worried that they cannot afford the cost of birth control methods such as the IUD or the pill, and that if they were to go to a doctor, their insurance would be billed and their parents would be able to see what services they received. However, students visiting the Health Center do not need to worry about this. “Our services are all provided at no cost,” says Jaynes. “If someone has insurance information that they can give us, we can bill their insurance, but if the appointment needs to remain confidential, we won’t bill insurance, and the student will still never be charged.” All funding for the Multnomah County Student Health Centers comes from insurance, Medicaid, grants, and public funding, so students will never see a bill for the services they receive. The health center also offers confidential sexual health services to students of any age thanks to Oregon law; the only time confidentiality would have to be broken is if a Health Center employee is informed of someone’s desire to harm themselves or others, any form of child abuse, or of a break in the age-of-consent laws, since most employees are mandatory reporters. However, if a student still needs help for a situation that might require a break in confidentiality, the Health Center can supply “referrals to people who aren’t mandatory reporters, if [a student] just wants to talk about relationships or consent, or things like that,” says Jaynes.
Another one of the things that holds many students back from seeking reproductive services is the stigma surrounding being proactive and informed about your sexual health. According to Planned Parenthood, about half of teens are sexually active. With such a high rate of sexually active young adults, it is important for people to be educated and informed about their sexual health. Wanting to take care of your body and keep yourself safe is nothing to be ashamed of and is actually something that teens should be proud of. Taking charge of your health is an important step in becoming independent, and it is something everyone must do at some point or another. Many students also may not realize that you do not have to be sexually active in order to seek birth control. There are many reasons that a person might use birth control other than preventing pregnancy, and that is no one’s business but theirs and their physician’s.
If you choose to visit the Student Health Center for sexual health services, they have you covered for almost anything you might need. “We offer pretty comprehensive sexual health services. That includes [all methods of] birth control, from the long-acting methods like the IUD or the implant, to the pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, and condoms. We do STI testing and treatment, and counseling on sexual activity and relationships,” says Jaynes. Making an appointment is also quite easy. All you need to do is either walk in or call and make an appointment and you’ll be scheduled as soon as possible.
In Portland, teens are fortunate enough to have easy access to sexual and reproductive health services through clinics like the School-Based Health Centers and Planned Parenthood, students just need to know where to look. Taking charge of your health is very rewarding and is nothing to be embarrassed about. If you are interested in learning more about your health, your birth control options, the Multnomah County Student Health Center at Franklin, or anything else related to your body, head down to the Health Center in room M-138, or call (503) 988-3370 to schedule an appointment.