By Jimmy’a (jih-MY-uh) Carter, a summer intern for the Executive’s Office Customer Service team. Jimmy’a, a 16 year old who will be a junior this fall at West Auburn High School, plans to attend a four-year college and get a degree in youth counseling. She joins us from the Bridge to Prosperity mentoring program.
Earlier this month, I took a trip to the King County’s Downtown Public Health Center. I was so excited to learn how everything works in a busy clinic that serves different types of clients.
Social workers Mary Cate and Michelle Bollinger gave me a tour around the offices and introduced me to people with different jobs in the various programs at the clinic. They said they love being able to help so many different people every day.
There are programs that are helpful to woman and families in need, like the WIC program, which improves health and influences lifetime nutrition by giving low-income parents money to buy nutritious food.
The Nurse-Family Partnership is another community health program that helps young, low-income mothers who are pregnant with their first child by matching them up with registered nurses to provide support from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday. The clinic also provides the Kids Plus program: a team of nurses and social workers who help homeless children and families with their health and social needs.
For example, they take donations for things like new diapers and baby gear, and slightly used things like baby and kids clothing, supplies, and toys in good condition to give to families with children who need them.
The clinic staff serves many customers who speak languages other than English. They have some staff who speak different languages, and they can also call a Language Line for an interpreter to help them understand what the clients need, and to explain how the clinic can help. They also help people who have come to the United States through refugee programs and help them with things like figuring out what immunizations and other medical and mental health care they need as they get settled in America.
The Public Health clinic staff also serve residents who live in the Mary’s Place homeless shelter and day center a couple of blocks away in downtown Seattle. Public Health partnered with Amazon to create the shelter in an old motel. It’s different from most shelters because it’s for families and you can have pets there. Being close to downtown and buses also makes it easier for the families in the shelter to get to other services they need.
Back at the main clinic, we also toured the Robert Clewis Center – Needle Exchange. The center is named after a much-loved former employee and community organizer.
Education Specialist Mel LaBelle explained that the needle exchange provides a safe place for people who use drugs by injection to come in and exchange dirty needles for clean ones. By providing a safe environment for getting rid of used needles and getting clean ones without being judged, the program helps keep used needles off the street, and also helps keep injectable drug users safer by giving them new needles, which helps decrease the spread of HIV and hepatitis through infected needles. The needle exchange also provides other services like health care and helping drug users get into drug treatment.
I already thought that public health was an asset to our community. But on this visit, I learned that they help out in more ways than I realized: from the needle exchange and medical care for homeless people, to supplies for families trying to find housing, to helping single mothers get housing and keep their babies up to date with immunizations, and so much more. Overall, it was a good experience.