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The San Francisco program reaches out to young people where they gather.
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EVERYDAY STORIES

Overcoming Abuse
A FRESH START

Each time this boy comes back, I think to myself, ‘With luck and hard work, this one will reclaim his future.’He first came to us six months ago after a long history of physical abuse and several years of homelessness.  He had a hacking cough and his skin was red from the relentless itch of scabies that afflict kids living in filthy conditions.  He was struggling on his own to overcome a drug addiction.  The medication we prescribed has cleared up the bronchitis. Since our social worker helped him get into a transitional shelter, he’s been able to wash so the medicated creams have finally beaten back the scabies. He’s even added a couple of pounds. He still has a lanky frame, but he’s no longer malnourished.  With his life a little stabilized, he comes to see us regularly now for mental health and addiction counseling, and I think he can make it.

Ambitions for the Future
BACK ON TRACK

Five years ago, her future looked pretty uncertain.  She had run away from home and was starving on the streets.  With the team’s help, she recovered her health and was able to graduate from high school. Now this promising young woman returns regularly to the mobile clinic for care, sex education and contraceptives. She is energetically working for the future she dreams of, with a steady day job and even a growing part-time business. 

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San Francisco

The San Francisco peninsula, famous for picturesque neighborhoods surrounding a majestic bay, is also tragically home to thousands of marginalized and homeless young people.   For many of these uninsured or underinsured adolescents, the San Francisco Peninsula program provides a lifeline of medical, nutrition and mental health services.  It is also a haven where caring adults help vulnerable youth, aged 10 to 25, work toward healthier and more stable lives. Operated in partnership with Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford University, the program is called the Teen Van,  and its mobile medical clinic staff  reach out to needy adolescents where they congregate— at schools, shelters and community service sites in the tri-county area of San Francisco, San Mateo County and Santa Clara County. 

BUILDING TRUST WITH MARGINALIZED YOUTH

Each year over 400 homeless and/or impoverished youth turn to the mobile clinic when they get sick, suffer mental health challenges, or need help finding and accessing social services.  The program’s long-time medical director, Dr. Seth Ammerman, works with a pediatric nurse practitioner, a registered dietitian and two social workers. The team has learned that establishing trust with the often brutalized young people they serve is an essential step in helping them.

As these compassionate medical professionals are busy treating  infections, rashes, and symptoms of the chronic conditions so many of these young people suffer with, they also work to understand the life circumstances and mental health challenges that are affecting  the health and well-being of their adolescent patients.  This takes time, and the average visit lasts over an hour.   When young people trust their providers and see results, they keep coming back.  “The fact that over 70% of our patients return for subsequent care tells me that we are taking the right approach,” Dr. Ammerman says.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

The team sees many patients who are malnourished, whose untreated illnesses and lack of access to medications have led to deteriorating health. Not surprisingly, many also suffer from mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse.  Addressing all these issues is often a step by step process, with progress on one front fueling progress on the next.  “Success then breeds success,” Dr. Ammerman notes.  “Then we can say, ‘Hey you did it!  That’s great!” and move on to the next challenge.

Home Institution/Affiliation 
Stanford Children's Health, Palo Alto, CA
Available services 
  • Comprehensive primary care, including physical examinations;
  • Management of acute and chronic illnesses;
  • Women's health and family planning;
  • Nutrition assessment and counseling;
  • Health education and health promotion;
  • Substance abuse counseling;
  • HIV testing and counseling;
  • STI diagnosis and treatment;
  • Subspecialty referrals
  • Immunizations
  • Psychiatry consultations
Program Fact sheet