Fifteen-year-old Elizabeth loves K-pop music. The high school sophomore, who lives in rural Idaho, has sights set on going to college in the northwest in a few years and becoming a marine biologist.
But just two years ago, Elizabeth’s carefree and hopeful adolescence was interrupted by a tragic and traumatic experience: her mother and brother were killed in a car accident during which she was also injured.
“A lot has changed. How I did things before and now are different,” she says.
Elizabeth needed medical and dental care immediately following the accident, and her aunt Silvia, who is now her primary caretaker, brought her to the clinic the teenager has visited since she was a baby: the Idaho Children’s Health Project, part of Family Health Services and supported by Children’s Health Fund.
“This is a small community, and they all know you there. They treat you like family,” says Silvia.
In their rural community in south-central Idaho, this clinic has been a healthcare mainstay. Transportation, language, and sometimes cultural barriers threaten healthcare access for many families in this area. Over the years, this community has become more culturally and linguistically diverse, with work opportunities in the agricultural sector and a refugee center attracting many new families.
At the clinic, Elizabeth met Dr. Adam Hodges, the clinic’s dental director, who helped Elizabeth smile again at no charge to her and her family. He also referred Elizabeth to a mental health therapist, whose office is right inside the same clinic. Elizabeth needed tools to process the trauma of the accident and the loss of her mother and brother.
It is clear that Elizabeth is resilient, strong, and has the support of a loving family. Even for children in nurturing homes, mental healthcare is extremely valuable and needed. But in rural communities like Elizabeth’s, it is often difficult to come by. In fact, 61% of areas with a mental health professional shortage are rural or partially rural, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.
“My experience there helped me through what happened to me and the loss,” says Elizabeth. “It helped me be more open.”
Even her aunt Silvia saw how Elizabeth’s healing process was helped by her therapist. “The provider was very understanding and talked to her about life after her loss. It was hard for her to accept it. But through counseling and the process, she learned to slowly release that and be open to the future.”
Without this clinic and others like it, where would kids like Elizabeth go for vital primary and mental healthcare when they need it most?
All kids deserve high-quality care for their physical and mental health needs, regardless of where they live. Because of you, Children’s Health Fund can continue to support clinics across the country providing essential care to children and teens like Elizabeth. Will you help?