30 years later, Roosevelt High's controversial clinic sees protests turn to praise
In the beginning, in an old bookroom in the basement of the North Portland's Roosevelt High School, it was hard imagine that someday the protests would turn into praise.
It was 1986, and teen pregnancies were on the rise. The Multnomah County Health Department wanted to try something new: Opening a health clinic inside a school. Clinics had gone up in two other cities, Dallas, Texas, and St. Paul, Minn.
Why not Portland?
But while the logistics went smoothly, said Mary Lou Hennrich, an assistant director at the Multnomah County Health Department at the time, a "furor" took hold.
False rumors abounded about in-school abortions. Protesters threatened to follow Hennrich home. They called her a "devil worshiper."
"I don't think it's that unlike some of the stuff we've got going on right now with Trump and all the rest," Hennrich said.
On Monday, its founders gathered to mark the 30th anniversary of the first school-based health clinic in the West -- celebrating success that spurred change around the state and helped lay the groundwork for clinics across the country.
In the decades since Roosevelt's clinic opened, 13 have opened in schools in Multnomah County, out of 75 around the state and 2,315 across the nation.
"It wasn't like we all sat down and said we're going to start a movement," Hennrich told The Oregonian/OregonLive. "We saw a need."
Multnomah County chose Roosevelt, she said, because census data showed the area had some of the highest rates for teen pregnancies, low income students and kids without health insurance.
Not all of the clinics offer reproductive services, but many do. Information about reproductive health, including information about abstinence, has come to dominate the narrative about the clinics though officials say it's only a small part of their care.
Mainly, the clinics provide convenient primary care. Regular shots and checkups happen right on campus, meaning kids don't have to miss school. Mental health services are also available.
"It's a model that is this powerful investment in youth and their academic 30 years later, Roosevelt High's controversial clinic sees protests turn to praise | OregonLive.com: