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Addressing the health and mental health needs of unaccompanied immigrant youth through an innovative school-based health center model: Successes and challenges


Unaccompanied immigrant youth (UIY) have traveled from Central America and Mexico across the US Mexico border for many years, seeking work or education, reunifying with immigrant parents and fleeing violence in their home countries. However, in response to rising levels of violence in Central America, this number dramatically increased, and over 120,000 UIY have come to the United States (US) from these countries since Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. California has been one of the top three destinations for resettled youth in the US, and a large urban school district in Northern California enrolled 2,200 newcomers in the 2016-2017 academic year, of whom 289 are identified as unaccompanied minors. The majority of UIY in this district are from Guatemala, many of them speaking Mam or another indigenous language, instead of Spanish. With the support community and academic partners, a school-based health center administered by a Federally Qualified Health Center developed a plan for outreach, systematic screening and referral to services for newcomer youth. Of 56 youth screened in Fall 2015, 44% were referred to behavioral health services, and 64.2% had follow-up medical visits within six months. Successes and challenges of working with this vulnerable population and tracking care are discussed.

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