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'For people to call for its closure is disheartening and shows a lack of compassion.'

My name is Ingrid Solares. I am a clinical social worker and a former teenage mother. I am writing on behalf of United Unidos. We are an activist group based out of Hillsboro, who stands up to defend human rights with special focus on immigrant rights, environmental justice, education, and women's reproductive rights. We are writing in response to Monte Akers' call to shut down the School Based Health Center at Century High School.

As health professionals we are shocked and offended by the comments he wrote in the Citizen's View which appeared last month (School health center a distraction and should close, Jan. 19, 2018) and we were compelled to speak up in support for both the SBHC and access to birth control. In his letter, he mentions medical staff could counsel someone's 15-year-old daughter to have an abortion. This is inflammatory and frankly untrue.

The topic of abortion is irrelevant and an attempt to distract and instill fear and confusion in parents who may not be well informed about minor's rights and their access to consent to their health care. So let's start here, According to Oregon Health Authority and Oregon law, minors of any age are allowed to access birth control-related information and services as well as testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections including HIV, without parental consent. Minors who are 15 or older are able to consent to medical and dental services without parental consent.

It seems the issue is not with the SBHC but with state and federal laws, which are put in place to protect patient confidentiality.

Further, Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Centers, including their SBHC's, must follow federal regulations regarding confidentiality.

Regarding his call to shut down the health center, I want to remind everyone that Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and the SBHC provide quality medical, mental health and dental care to our most vulnerable community members. Access means being available in places and at a cost that people can obtain easily. Healthcare collocated in schools provides that access point.

For anyone who has concerns about birth control being available at the SBHC, I encourage you to foster open communication with your kids so they feel comfortable coming to you with these tough life choices. There is no doubt that parents should be aware if their teens are engaging in sexual intercourse and if they are interested in birth control.

I feel that parents should be included in this conversation but unfortunately, not every parent-teen relationship has open communication. If patients request this medical service, the SBHC must follow federal privacy laws.

When this is the case and teens decide they don't want to become parents, having easy access to birth control reduces teen pregnancy rates and ensures that young women can continue their academic pursuits and live their high school years with something less to worry about. This increases graduation rates and improves the lives of our community members.

For some community members, the SBHC is the only place they can access healthcare. For people to call for its closure is disheartening and shows a lack of compassion.

Ingrid Solares works as a behavioral health consultant with Virginia Garcia Memorial Health Center and serves on the board of director of Adelante Mujeres.

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