The purpose of this study was to assess availability of clinical health services and special adolescent health programs for those aged 10-19 years administered by local health departments in North Carolina, and to evaluate factors that were associated with the existence of specialized adolescent programs, comprehensive services, and school services. We used self-report surveys mailed to 100 county health directors. All counties responded. One in five (21%) North Carolina youth received one or more health department service in 1990. Thirty-four health departments have programs or services specifically designed for adolescents; 7 health departments provide comprehensive services. The majority of health departments (85%) provide services in public schools, most often health education or counseling. Counties with more adolescents and with higher per capita income were more likely to have adolescent programs and more likely to provide comprehensive clinics. Health departments with school services served proportionally twice as many of their county's adolescents as those without school services. We concluded that few local health departments in North Carolina provide comprehensive health services to their youth. Community-wide participation and state support are needed to improve public sector access to comprehensive health care for adolescents in North Carolina and in other states with decentralized, county-controlled public health systems.