Susan Parmelee
Susan Parmelee

By Susan Parmelee

The mission of the Wellness & Prevention Center is to help youth and families lead healthy lives. When we founded the nonprofit in 2014, the number of youth with substance-use problems and mental health symptoms were on the rise, and connecting to resources was complicated and costly. The founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center created a three-tiered program for public schools that included universal education, targeted classroom and group interventions, and individual and family counseling.

We started with one therapist on the campus of San Clemente High School three days a week and have grown to begin serving San Clemente and San Juan Hills High School, as well as the three San Clemente middle schools. Additionally, we saw the need to open two evenings a week to serve the entire community with accessible mental health services, so we now have therapists working with individuals, families and small groups in a borrowed retired school building and will soon offer services at a local church.

The diseases of mental health and substance abuse are highly stigmatized in the United States and other countries around the world. Because of this, many individuals and their loved ones find it difficult to reach out for help. One of our primary strategies is to provide community education that normalizes asking for help, so that seeking mental health care is perceived the same as any medical condition.

Our staff also provides youth and adults with education about legal and illegal use of addictive substances, social-emotional resilience, and wellness. This work is funded by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy’s Drug Free Communities program. It is a five-year grant that allows us to help youth learn more about the risks of alcohol, marijuana and other drug use before the age of 21. Research shows that when youth are given clear, accurate information about what is in illicit substances and their health effects on the body and the brain, they are more likely to make healthy choices.

The well-being of our youth and families has a huge impact on our community. Our programming is guided by the input of our Wellness & Prevention Coalition. We meet once per month, and these meetings are open to the public. We believe strongly that members of a community are the experts on how to support health and wellness. Please consider joining our meetings. If you would like more information, email info@www.wpc-oc.org.

As a nonprofit, our organization relies on grants and donations from individuals to keep our doors open. Please consider making a donation at www.wpc-oc.org—click on the donate button. While you are there, please sign up for our emails—they contain valuable prevention and social-emotional support information twice a month.

Finally, attend our first Health & Wellness Fair from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Outlets at San Clemente. The fair will feature local providers, nonprofit organizations and free health screenings. Additionally, the event will feature a “Take Back the Vape” booth for e-cigarette and vape safe disposal in exchange for gift cards. Raffles, giveaways and live entertainment will also be featured at this event. Come to find out what resources are available in your community to live well and be healthy!

Susan Parmelee is a mental health social worker and one of the founders of the Wellness & Prevention Center, San Clemente. She can be reached at susan@wellnessandpreventionsanclemente.com.

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