Three years ago when Scynthia Ross was a 17-year-old living on the street, the pierced skin around a lip ring became infected.

Her attitude at the time was to “just ride it out,” but the infection only got worse and spread throughout her body, causing her leg to start hurting.

When she went to see a doctor in a walk-in clinic, she said they didn’t take her seriously.

Eventually, a police officer who works with street youth noticed she was behaving strangely and took her to a hospital where she was diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant bacterial infection called MRSA.

After surgery on her leg and months of treatment, the infection has been cured but even two years later, she needs a cane to walk.

Yesterday, Ross told her story at the opening of a new full-time health clinic for street-involved youth at the Youth Services Bureau’s Downtown Drop-in Centre on Besserer Street.

“This is extremely needed,” said Ross. “If the drop-in had had a clinic (before), I probably won’t have ended up in the hospital.”

Youth Services Bureau executive director Alex Munter predicted it could reduce the number of visits in emergency rooms and calls for paramedics by street-involved youth by one-third.

“This drop-in has existed at this site for nearly 20 years,” he said. “It has a reputation as a place that is safe, welcoming and accepting of young people. So it’s a lot less intimidating than going into a doctor’s office or a hospital.”