New health clinic opens at Ryan’s House for Youth

Family nurse practioner Theresa Granger at the new small health clinic at Ryan’s House for Youth. It offers basic medical services for at-risk youth and school sports physicial for all local youth. Photo by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News-Times

Ryan’s House for Youth has opened a small health clinic aimed at preventative and minor medical care for homeless youth.

It’s located on the Ryan’s House campus, just south of Coupeville.

For a suggested donation of $30, the clinic will provide sports physicals for all Whidbey Island youth needing one for school sports.

“We try to get medical appointments (elsewhere) but sometimes it takes kids way too long to be seen. So we’ve been having to use the emergency room,” said Lori Cavender, Ryan’s House founder and executive director. “Maybe they have a cough, or have the flu or hurt their leg, they can go to the clinic instead. We hate to tie up the ER for minor concerns.”

For now, the clinic is open on Fridays but Cavender hopes more medical and healing professionals will volunteer their time and skills. The clinic is managed by Theresa Granger, a nurse practitioner, who’s been involved in similar clinics for homeless youth in Seattle.

“I moved here two years ago and had the vision for a clinic with Lori and others,” said Granger, who is also a clinical assistant professor at University of Southern California. The Freeland resident teaches via a virtual classroom for the Department of Nursing and Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work.

In the state of Washington, nurse practitioners are licensed to treat patients and prescribe medicine without oversight from a physician. Parental consent is needed for youth under the age of 18 to treat most medical conditions, other than pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and mental health-related services.

“I’m not going to replace a primary care doctor but I can address colds, sore throats or treat the flu and provide a bridge to other services,” Granger said.

She’ll be able to refer at-risk youth to recovery programs for drugs and alcohol and other services.

“It’s not an open-to-the-public clinic. But it’s opening with the thought that if kids are falling through the cracks, we’re here. We don’t bill insurance but accept good-will donations.”

While many at-risk and homeless youth may have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, some have a difficult time getting into clinics and keeping appointments, she said.

“The homeless population have unique needs,” said Granger, who’s volunteering her time. She also spent nearly $1,000 of her own money to buy basic equipment, such an examination table and stethoscope.

“I just spent an hour with one of the residents this morning,” she said. “It’s about quality of care. If it takes two hours, I’ll spend two hours with them.”

While birth control related services are not currently being offered, the clinic hopes to provide these services in the future. Youth desiring birth control will be appropriately counseled and referred to local providers, Granger said.

Located in the former Countryside Inn south of Coupeville, Ryan’s House provides transitional housing and runs a drop-in center.

For more information: (360) 331-4575 ; www.ryanshouseforyouth.org