December 10, 2014

HiTOPS Will No Longer Offer Clinical Services to Clients

HiTOPS, the Adolescent Health and Education Center on Wiggins Street, has announced that it will no longer provide clinical services for young people. After examining its resources, the center has decided to focus on educational outreach and support programs, which are expected to continue and expand in the future.

“Any time there is change or when you stop doing something it’s a bittersweet moment,” said HiTOPS Executive Director Elizabeth Casparian. “But this is a healthy choice for the organization and we will continue to be here,” she added. “If we were to maintain the services we currently have it would mean significant changes in our infrastructure and so we looked at our resources and decided that our educational outreach and support programs have the most significant impact on the lives of the youth we serve.”

According to Ms. Casparian, the decision also reflects an increase in the number of choices available to young people today and the changing landscape of health care. In the last few years, HiTOPS has seen a significant drop in client numbers at the clinic, probably because the population served — largely 18 years and older — increasingly has greater access to parental insurance. Today’s adolescents and teens are also more comfortable with their parents knowing that they are seeking reproductive health care services than in the past. Young women are being taken to the gynecologist by their mothers, and walk-in clinics and pharmacies are able to provide vaccines, sports physicals, and emergency contraception.

“Our clinical care was unique and very, very special, but it was also tremendously expensive,” explained Ms. Casparian. “HiTOPS was only taking one type of health insurance from clients. Without the infrastructure to take other insurances, which include electronic medical records or a dedicated billing office, HiTOPS felt that it was not the most efficient use of resources in the face of diminishing client numbers and increased options for clients.”

Going forward, HiTOPS plans to expand its educational outreach to communities throughout the state where there are high rates of unplanned teen pregnancies, HIV, and STDs — particularly in areas of economic adversity where schools and youth-serving agencies are struggling to provide necessary comprehensive sexuality education programs.

“HiTOPS is very successful in getting young people to postpone or safely control their sexual behavior,” said Ms. Casparian. “We’ve been doing this for over 25 years now.”

A longtime Princeton resident, Ms. Casparian has given hundreds of lectures, workshops, and presentations on all aspects of sexual health, parenting, and adolescent development to audiences nationwide. She was an early volunteer with the organization and a client of the FamilyBorn Birth Center, the organization that preceded HiTOPS.

National data on the benefits of Comprehensive Sexuality Education show significant promise in addressing adolescent risk taking and health behavior. HiTOPS will be working with high-risk middle school and high school aged adolescents in four distinct areas: Pregnancy, HIV, and STI prevention; reduction in sexual and intimate partner violence; LGBTQIA support and bullying prevention; and professional development for adults who work with youth living with trauma, poverty, and violence.

As for the clinic on the HiTOPS’s site, Ms. Casparian said that the organization was “looking to rent the space to a health care provider. “Depending on who is selected, there may be services similar to those formerly provided by HiTOPS at the site, but under the umbrella of another entity, possibly a Federally Qualified Health Center or a private practice.”

According to its website, last year, HiTOPS taught 7,889 adolescents and young adults life-saving, health-enhancing skills and information. It responds to increasing demands to reach young people at highest risk for HIV/AIDS, STIs, unplanned pregnancies, and who suffer the highest incidences of harassment, physical assault, self-harm, and relationship violence.