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Medical News & Perspectives
March 3, 1999

25 Years of School-Based Health Centers

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JAMA. 1999;281(9):781-782. doi:10.1001/jama.281.9.781

Rosita grew up in a gang-related family in the projects of Los Angeles. By the time she entered high school, she had suffered years of emotional and physical abuse and had come to believe that life offered little opportunity. Seeking escape, she turned to drugs and alcohol and repeatedly attempted suicide. Although she was intelligent, her recurring absences from classes and mounting behavioral problems caused her performance in school to deteriorate.

Because Rosita (not the student's real name) attended San Fernando High School, she had access to a health clinic that had been located in the school since 1987—the San Fernando High School Teen Health Center. She saw a therapist at the clinic and started to share her experiences with members of her therapy group. By the time she was a senior, she vowed that she would never again attempt suicide. Her grades improved, and she began thinking about a future career in marine biology. Her problems at home had not disappeared, but Rosita was learning to cope with them and to create a life on her own.