A vital and iconic health service for vulnerable New Zealand youth is expected to close within weeks unless emergency funding can be sourced.
The free clinic which was founded in the 1970’s works with young people, their families and those supporting young people, offering vital health care to marginalised and vulnerable youth communities that include those from low socio-economic areas, the homeless, Maori and Pacific Island youth and LGBTI.
Youthline CEO Stephen Bell says the Youth Health Service was created to break down the barriers young people face when seeking assistance with health problems, and will even go as far as arranging transport for patients to reach the clinic.
Youthline will close within two weeks on May 4 unless $50,000 in funding can be found before then.
Bell says the clinic has seen patients as young as 12 who may have otherwise fallen through gaps in our healthcare system.
Youthline estimate that almost half (45%) of those seeking help at the clinic were suffering physical health concerns and more than a quarter (27%) needing support for sexual health issues. A further 14% of patients sought help for mental health conditions.
Bell says there are a number of issues which can prevent youth from seeking treatment in traditional services including an inability to relate to the health care provider, ability to pay for a consult or prescription or the necessary transport to get there.
“Our medical team is devastated that we may lose our ability to support the welfare and health of the most marginalised members of our community. We know from the huge influx of clients coming to see us that we provide a vital service,” he explains.
“In a sample of recent cases, several we identified had some very serious health issues which would have gone undetected, including one with a rare neurological condition. The centre has been crucial in changing the lives of these people, who might otherwise not seek help.”
Despite key decision makers acknowledging the success and innovative nature of Youthline, funding priority lies within the current focus for service delivery, specifically GP practice and school-based services.
Bell adds, “we advocate, and the funders have acknowledged, that the Youth Health Service complements these core medical offerings, but we believe we are an important extension of these services to achieve positive outcomes for all young people.”
Bell says right now Youthline is committed to doing all it can to help save the Youth Health Service from closure and is hoping to find support from both the corporate sector and members of the public.
In the meantime, a text-to-donate line has been established. Those wanting to make a $3 donation can do so by texting “YHS” to 4499 or visit www.youthline.co.nz/donate-and-help-youthline/donate