SMC students unaware of available medical care

Free stuff always seems to catch people’s attention. Condoms and candy did the trick for eight Santa Monica College speech students who conducted a survey on campus in the beginning of April. In a little over an hour, the group, named Team Awareness, got 187 students to fill out an anonymous survey about the SMC Health Services Center. The survey showed that most students know the location of the Health Services Center, but are unaware of the services offered.

“A lot of us in the group didn’t know about the health center to begin with,” Team Awareness member Emily King said. “I’ve been here for two years, and I had no idea that there is a health center here.”

Of the students surveyed, only 21 percent had taken advantage of the center’s services.

“Every single student is paying the health fee, so they should be aware that they are paying for it and that it is there for them,” said Georhanna Cabrera from Team Awareness.

The required health fee gives SMC students access to all services offered at the center. Effective this summer, the health fee will increase by $2 each semester, to $16 in the summer, and $18 in the fall.

“We are here for the students,” said Gloria Lopez, registered nurse and coordinator of the Health Services Center. “Our main mission is students’ success. You can’t succeed if you’re sick.”

Included in the health fee are over-the-counter medications, emergency treatment, first aid, nursing assessments, medical referrals, personal counseling, and brief therapy.

“A thing as simple as Tylenol—instead of buying it from the bookstore, you can just walk in,” King said.

“The fee pays for the medication,” said Lopez. “Our focus is illness prevention.”

The Health Services Center also provides students with free birth control and condoms, blood pressure screenings, blood sugar tests, tuberculin skin tests, and HIV/STD testing.

“We’re going to promote the HIV/STD testing days,” King said. “We want to post flyers and have snack tables and kind of feed people through the direction of the health center.”

Administered by Common Ground Clinic, the HIV testing is offered every Monday between 2 and 4:30 p.m., and sometimes on additional days. The testing is performed using an oral method, and is completely anonymous.

“Kids think that they don’t need to get tested, [and] that it will never happen to them, but you know, it does happen,” said King. “So it’s just a regular thing to keep track of.”

Limited gynecological services, including pap smears, are also available at the center. According to Lopez, the services are limited in that they are offered on only two Thursdays a month, to students who do not have health insurance. Those with insurance are referred to the Westside Family Health Clinic.

“We also have immunizations that we give at cost, like the flu vaccine,” Lopez said. “When you get ready to transfer, if your admitting school says you have to have measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, then we have that too.”

Lopez also explained that the Health Services Center does not charge students extra for the immunizations. Students pay what the vaccines cost, and the center does not profit from them, according to Lopez.

The Health Services Center is located at the northeast corner of the Cayton Center next to the cafeteria, and is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.