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YOUR HEALTH MATTERS: First adolescent clinic in Northeast Wisconsin gives teen specific care

As we’ve reported before, the pandemic sparked a major wave of mental health challenges for teenagers.
Updated: Jun. 6, 2022 at 11:30 AM CDT
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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - June is Pride Month when the LGBTQ community is celebrated. As more young people become comfortable with their gender and sexual identities, local health care is meeting them where they’re at. The start of June marked Bellin Health opening up the first adolescent clinic in northeast Wisconsin tailoring doctors visits for teens. Plus, empowering them and their parents to have challenging conversations.

As we’ve reported before, the pandemic sparked a major wave of mental health challenges for teenagers. It heightened feelings of isolation and wanting to belong. Which is part of the reason why Bellin Health created a space where teens feel like they’re going to a doctor’s office designed just for them.

“A lot of times in a space like a pediatrician’s office, you’re surrounded by babies, you’re not sure if this is a space for you,” Kim Shefchik, a physician assistant at Bellin Health and one of the members of the adolescent clinic team, emphasized. “You’re not sure how to bring it up to your parents, it might be uncomfortable. This is going to be... the minute they walk in the door, I think pretty apparent that we’re taking care of everyone.”

Bellin Health said this De Pere location is the first adolescent clinic of its kind north of Milwaukee and east of Wausau. Here, they’ll be able to treat patients who are about 11-years-old to 21-years-old. Thanks to inclusive posters that read “Everyone is Welcome” and an emphasis on technology usage, teens hopefully feel the difference compared to their pediatrician’s office. The adolescent care team here includes mental health counselors, dieticians, and gynecology experts.

“Adolescents sometimes don’t want to be in a space where they hear babies crying. They don’t feel like they fit as well,” pediatrician at Bellin Health and member of the adolescent care team Dr. Sherri Hoyman, highlighted. “Or there are elderly people in the waiting room who are staring at them as they come in with a look that maybe isn’t the same as them. Or they are going to a gynecologic office where the moment they walk in they are being judged about what they might be doing.”

Starting June 1 teens will be able to come into an exam room at the Bellin Health Adolescent Clinic to get their physical, nutrition expertise, or talk about their gender and sexual identity.

“So, when they look around, they’re going to see people like them people who are needing to have those conversations in a safe space and it’s really hard to have those conversations with a random person so having a team that’s really comfortable and used to having those is awesome,” Shefchik explained. “I think everyone on our team is really excited about that.”

Moving forward this clinic aims to: empower and teach parents how to have tough conversations about puberty, gender and sexual orientation, or mental health challenges. Plus, have trained counselors connect teens with community resources and tips to help with anxiety or depression.

The clinic is open to the community so that even non-existing Bellin Health patients can receive this adolescent specific care.

Annie Krall is a former writer and producer for ABC NEWS New York City on the national medical and business units. Prior to that position, she was accepted to medical school her senior year at Northwestern University, after spending four years as a pre-medical student. However, Krall deferred her acceptance to pursue a Master in Health, Environment, and Science Journalism at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism.

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