SAN MARCOS — Ten years after child abuse prevention and treatment organization Casa de Amparo moved its residential treatment center to San Marcos, local leaders are celebrating the opening of an onsite health clinic that will serve young women and their children in ongoing residential programs.
The TrueCare & Lennar Foundation Health Center was born out of Casa de Amparo’s partnership with San Diego County health care provider TrueCare, which is providing medical staff for the center, as well as the local office of residential developer Lennar, which retrofitted the former residential cottage into a medical space.
With a medical examination room, mini laboratory and office space, the 600-square-foot clinic will provide primary care services for young women ages 12 to 18 traumatized by severe abuse and neglect who reside on the 11.4-acre San Marcos campus.
“A big part of what TrueCare does is really meeting patients where they’re at in their health care journey,” said TrueCare CEO Michelle Gonzalez. “For these young girls, what they really need is an abundance of care and support. If we’re able to provide the services on campus for them, it’s a win-win for everybody.”
During a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the center on Thursday, officials shared their hope that the onsite clinic will remove some of the barriers these young women face in accessing basic health services such as medications, chiropractic care and OB/GYN services and allow them to build trust with the medical staff.
Casa de Amparo CEO Mike Barnett called the center a “game-changer” for the organization and the residents they serve.
“These young women have never had a reason to trust an adult in their life. And when we tell them, ‘hey, it’s time to get up, we’re gonna drive to Escondido to see a doctor,’ that’s already kind of invasive and scary to these young women,” Barnett said. “Having the medical center on our campus will allow clinical staff to build trusting relationships with the residents to help them heal and move forward in their lives.”
The center is within walking distance from the homey residential cottages at the San Marcos campus. There are between 25 and 30 residents, referred to as Casa Kids, at any given time, most of whom will stay between six and 24 months while simultaneously receiving behavioral health treatment and other support.
County agencies such as Child Welfare Services refer young women to Casa de Amparo. It is San Diego County’s only residential treatment facility for pregnant and parenting youth in foster care.
Dr. Tina Fallon will be one of the TrueCare pediatricians working with Casa residents in the new health center. She has previous experience working with Casa clients when they have come to TrueCare’s Mission Mesa clinic in Oceanside and is eager to continue fostering positive relationships.
“I’m really excited. I already take care of a lot of the Casa patients — they’re really special kids. They’re growing into adults that are really mature. Every time I touch base with them, it’s always a learning experience,” Fallon said. “The goal with the girls I haven’t met so far is to build that relationship.”
Casa de Amparo, which means “house of healing” in Spanish, provides facilitated transitional housing to emancipated foster youth between 18 and 25. Referred to as the New Directions program, it gives a stable apartment, career and educational support, and mental health support.
TrueCare has 11 health centers, six Women, Infant and Children (WIC) centers throughout North San Diego County, and a fleet of mobile clinics. According to Gonzalez, they aim to open three more health centers and additional mobile clinics before the end of 2022.