Julie Barnum: Navigating Humboldt’s Health Issues Starts With An Open Door – August 30, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I was once a student and at one time, a freshman at Humboldt State University. When they say that college is possibly the best years of your life, “they” aren’t lying. It’s an amazing time, and amazing experiences await you, including opportunities to make new friendships and relationships, go to parties and on road trips, and soak up the culture of college life.

But, as our childhood pal Spiderman so aptly said, “With great power comes great responsibility,” including the responsibility of taking care of yourself. Yes, you must take care of yourself- physically and mentally. Unfortunately, you will likely get sick as a new college student; and if your experience is like mine, you’ll probably get sick often.

We have this thing called the “Humboldt Crud.” It is a nice little “welcome to Humboldt” virus that may or may not be a real thing, but nonetheless we all seem to have experienced extreme cold-like symptoms as we immerse ourselves into Humboldt County. And, if you are from a sunny area – and face it, anywhere that isn’t Humboldt tends to be sunnier – then it can be pretty difficult to avoid a slight depression when fog is ever-present.

Social challenges also arise as college students feel the newfound freedom of adulthood. While the social change is arguably the best thing about going to college, it often presents situations that tend to challenge the morals that we once thought were so obvious. “Should I stay up all night with friends, or should I sleep because I know I’ve got a full day tomorrow?”

Let’s be honest: when we first get to college the opportunity to try new things in a social atmosphere is most alluring. In a college setting, however, social environments sometimes present opportunities that can lead to substance abuse and other harmful behavior.

Binge drinking is a dangerous occurrence and substance abuse in the form of prescription drugs or marijuana has increased on college campuses dramatically since the ’90s, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse.

In some social atmospheres we come into contact with relationships that could harm our physical or emotional well-being. Intimate partner violence is an unfortunate reality for some young adults. The bottom line is no one deserves (ever!) to be mistreated by their friends, acquaintances, or romantic partners.

There are fabulous programs on campus and in the community to support survivors of abuse or coercion, including establishing a relationship with a primary health care provider you trust (at an Open Door clinic or at the HSU Student Health Center).

While it is normal to experience new things at this age, it is also essential to consider the well being of your health as you start the foundation of this next stage of your life. Rather than being daunted by the responsibilities of college, rest easy knowing that you’ve come to a community dedicated to providing support for health and wellness.

As a newcomer to Humboldt County and HSU, I like to think I became wiser in the area of protecting my health. I attended my nutritional needs; oranges and apples, oatmeal or eggs instead of my handy breakfast bar. I learned to take a night off from friends every now and then, if only to catch up on sleep, which surprisingly you can catch up on. And recently I became a mom and have quickly learned how to take preventative steps to safe guard myself from destructive health habits or invisible threats.

I wish I had known as a college freshman what I know now about Open Door Community Health Centers. The clinic staff are available as a resource to assist you in making informed and educated choices about your health care needs.

While Open Door can definitely provide care for your health, they are also equipped with the means to help your emotional health, your physical safety, or treatment for substance abuse.

College life can take you down roads you would never imagine yourself to be on, but it’s nice to know that there are supportive resources available. Some clinics offer: behavioral health; nutrition counseling; women’s health; dental care; transgender health; opiate dependency treatment; depression care; stress, anxiety and insomnia care; family planning, pregnancy and prenatal care; STD and STI, including HIV testing and treatment; and, special clinics for teen sexual health (opendorhealth.com/teenclinic), providing great resources for anyone who is sexually active, or looking for medically accurate information about reporoductive health, including support for the choice of abstinence.

Open Door was established in 1971 and now 40 years later is the largest provider of primary health care in Humboldt County. Serving 45,000 residents each year – one out of every four people who live here, providing 170,000 visits annually – 700 to 800 visits every day.

Open Door serves everyone in the community and happily accepts those with private insurance. But everyone has the right to quality health care. Individuals who rely on Medi-Cal, CMSP or Medicare are welcomed, and if you are uninsured, there will be a sliding scale based on income and ability to pay. Open Door Community Health Centers look at health care as a partnership, and works to empower patients to take their health and wellness into their own hands.

Student Health Services is a great resource available to the students at Humboldt State University, along with the clinics available through Open Door, the resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle are abundant. Welcome to Humboldt, have fun, and stay safe and healthy.


Juli Barnum is Advancement Assistant at Open Door Community Health Centers in Arcata; an avid book reader who likes beets. She has lived in Humboldt County since 2004. For more information, visit opendoorhealth.com.

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