For More Information, contact: Cindy Foster, (505) 272-0260

Peou Lakhana, MSW, Senior Program Manager, 505-272-4462, UNM HSC, CHPDP

The Acoma-Canoncito (To'Hajiilee)-Laguna (ACL) Teen Centers have been awarded two grants for a total of $ 40,000 by the School-Based Health Centers Fund, an established fund of the New Mexico Community Foundation. The funding provides support for additional mental health services and piloting of a Medicaid enrollment project for adolescents attending the Laguna/Acoma Junior/Senior High School and the To'Hajiilee Community School.

"In the ACL service area, adolescent mental health services are extremely limited and yet so greatly needed. By providing additional services, we will be able to reach more teens through early intervention to increase protective factors and reduce their risk factors," said Peou Lakhana, Senior Program Manager for the ACL Teen Centers.

More than one-third of Native American children live in poverty; 40% of New Mexico 's Native American children also have no health insurance compared to 20% of all the state's children. Though they have twice the nation's teen suicide rate, many Native American children live in rural areas, far from health care facilities, according to the New Mexico Community Foundation.

School-based health centers (SBHCs) can effectively provide both mental health and physical health care to large numbers of students, especially those living in underserved areas where it is difficult to access medical services geared to adolescent health, according to a 1992 evaluation of SBHCs by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

"School-based health centers are a critical and significant health care link to reaching adolescents. Students can come to a SBHC without missing a full day of school, because the service providers are located on the school campus," said Peou. "Ultimately, our goal is to promote a healthy lifestyle for adolescents as they journey into adulthood. Our Centers are a true partnership between youth, parents, community, UNM and funding entities, such as the New Mexico Community Foundation."

The ACL Teen Centers have served the ACL communities for over 20 years. In addition to mental health and primary care services, substance abuse prevention programs are provided to students attending the five area elementary and middle schools. The ACL Teen Centers are affiliated with the UNM HSC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention in Albuquerque .