In the year of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for quality health care has rarely been more evident. The age group that too often flies under the health care radar are students — young adults down to kindergartners.
In the city of Culver City, there is an organization that makes youth health care its No. 1 priority: the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center. Its mission statement is to provide “high quality, comprehensive health care to students who might otherwise go without the care they need.”
Located at 4401 Elenda St., the youth health center sits conveniently between Culver City high and middle schools. However, with in-class education restricted during COVID-19, the center’s accessibility is limited to tele-health conferencing, either video or by phone.
“The Sandy Segal Youth Health Center is currently unable to see students on site,” Sandy Schwartz, vice president of the Friends of the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center, told the News. “(Mental health) services are offered online by the Venice Family Clinic, by phone (general health services, 310-392-8636) or at another VFC facility.”
Other medical services for students are on hold, health center officials said on their website.
For sports physicals, designated days on-site at SSYHC can be scheduled periodically, depending on need, Schwartz said. Parents are encouraged to stay in touch with the school nurse.
SSYHC Friends President Diana Hauptman said that students are in need of care now for a variety of pandemic-related issues.
“I know there is a high volume of calls (to the Center),” Hauptman told the News by email. “I think there is a lot of frustration with virtual learning, anxiety and loneliness so students need support. Families are in their own close quarters, which I am sure can be trying at times.”
The SSYHC opened in 1986, under the name Culver City Youth Health Center. It was the inspiration of Segal, who was the school nurse of the middle and high schools. She recognized the need for free, high quality health care for students, many of whom lacked health insurance.
The center was realized through grants obtained by the Culver City School District and UCLA, according to the center’s website.
Hauptman and Andy Alexander were instrumental in organizing the Friends in 1990; bringing together a group of concerned, like-minded individuals and groups to raise funds in support of the Health Center.
“The Friends of the SSYHC is the (non-profit) fundraising arm of the health center,” Hauptman said. “We have kept up with monthly zoom meetings during the pandemic to further our agenda of a membership drive and fundraising.”
She said the Friends have a motto they share with the community: “Every child needs to be healthy in mind, body and spirit in order to grow to be productive members of our society.”
In 2004, the Center partnered with Venice Family Clinic, which helped expand SSYHC’s physical and mental services.
The center was renamed The Friends of the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center in 2014.
While the coronavirus pandemic has forced or canceled events, the Friends group held its annual meeting and Special Family Support Programs in a virtual setting on Nov. 16. The event featured simultaneous but separate presentations for CCHS and CC Middle School. Cheryl Karp Eskin, program director of Teen Line, led the parent support webinar.
Schwartz said the Friends event and the school presentations were highly successful despite its online format.
“The program dealt with stressful issues during the pandemic such as isolation, loneliness, depression and suicide,” she said. “There was a lot of positive feedback from attendees who stated they learned how to be supportive, how to cope better with anxiety, the importance of empathy and watching for signs of depression and suicide.”
Schwartz added that the advantage of the online event was that people had the convenience to meet without leaving their homes.
Hauptman gave her annual review at the November event and the Friends installed its officers for the 2020-2021 year.
Many Friends members have remained a part of the organization since its early days.
“I have been very fortunate with wonderful, very active and bright board members who are very dedicated to all teens in need of mental health or medical services at this crucial time of their lives,” Hauptman said. “Most of the friends have served on the board for over 25 years.”
Officers installed at the November meeting were almost the same as last year, Schwartz said: president, Diana Hauptman; vice president, Sandy Schwartz; financial officer, Sue Mitchell; secretary, Suzanne Wood; accountant, David Lazarus; historian, Jessica Beagles-Roos, Ph.D.; publicity, Francia Turner Fate; outreach, Joanna Brody, Allison Bragard and Renate Jordan; VFC liaison, Jeania Schilling; members-at-large, Erin Hart, Michele Hindler, Pat Levinson, Sharlene London and Joyce Perlick.
While Hauptmann continues making her mark with SSYHC, co-founder Alexander died in August 2015 at age 79. Another longtime and vital group member, as well as past president, Dr. Sarah “Sally” Carpenter, died in August 2019. She was 66.
The annual Gala fundraiser took place Feb. 29, just before the pandemic closures, Schwartz said.
“The Exchange Club of Culver City has been very supportive for many years with a large annual donation,” she said. “Most non-profits are in the same situation of finding creative, safe ways to raise the funds for their organizations.”
Looking ahead to 2021, Schwartz said that observing the pandemic and safety guidelines will continue.
“A large new banner will be put up in front of the Health Center with phone numbers that students can call for general health and mental health,” she said. “A virtual fundraiser is being planned with a tentative date of March 13, 2021. Services will continue to be available throughout the school year using telemedicine until the school site reopens.”
For additional information about the Sandy Segal Youth Health Center, visit its website at www.sandysegalyouthhealthcenter.org.