Established in 2008, Supporting Positive Opportunities with Teens – better known as the SPOT – is a one-stop drop-in center for teens and young adults that provides HIV/STD testing, health care, counseling, social support, case management, substance abuse and more services — all at no cost.
Katie Plax, MD is one of the founders of the SPOT and its medical director. She is also a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the School of Medicine and an institute scholar. She answered a few questions for us about the SPOT and its impact.
What is your favorite part about your work with the SPOT?
I love working with youth and working with the SPOT team to help youth succeed. Seeing people grow and develop themselves over time is exciting and rewarding.
What is the relationship of the SPOT to the larger community?
The SPOT has served over 10,000 youth since we opened. Youth come to us from all different places. Many are referred from youth themselves, community-based organizations that serve youth, Division Juvenile Officers, the Children’s Division, teachers, adults who care about youth including parents. Building relationships with all kinds of people in our community is what makes the SPOT – the SPOT. No one agency or person can meet all the needs of youth – it takes a village. Being a part of that village is a privilege.
How does the SPOT help teens and young adults in St. Louis have better relationships with their peers/families?
The SPOT offers youth a chance to form relationships with trustworthy adults in all different kind of situations – our drop-in space, in a medical encounter, in a therapy appointment to name a few. We hope these interactions help youth practice these safe and respectful interactions with others in their lives. Everyone at the SPOT has a role to play in keeping our space a safe place for all. This means no bullying, threatening or disrespect to another. Keeping the space safe is central to all the work we do with youth.
What kind of relationships have improved because of people’s connections to the SPOT?
Youth have formed trusting relationships with others. Young people have obtained jobs and gone back to school. They have worked to heal themselves and their community. Many are working really hard to be their best selves and I so admire their determination and grit to do this hard work often in the face of many life challenges. That kind of effort inspires me every day.