Preventing Teen Pregnancy Programs Could Be At Risk In Oklahoma

Thursday, July 20th 2017, 10:54 pm
By: Grant Hermes

At the Oklahoma City - County Health Department teen pregnancy is front and center. In a state with more than 4,300 pregnant teens, the county's program to prevent more is a crown jewel.

“We talk about abstinence, we talk about sexually transmitted infections, we talked about condom use, birth control pills, birth control options,” OCCHD’s program Manager for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Paulette D. Lassiter said.

TPP helps write curriculum and train educators who teach comprehensive sex-ed in classrooms in Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Currently, Oklahoma does not require health education of any kind at any level in public schools.

Last year, Oklahoma spent roughly $40 million in tax dollars on teenage pregnancies and the state is tied for second with Mississippi in the rate of teen pregnancies. Arkansas leads the nation.

But in President Donald Trump's new budget, millions of dollars in prevention money has been marked for cuts, including a grant for Oklahoma County that was supposed to last until 2020. It will now only last through next school year.

“It was devastating,” Lassieter said about learning of the proposed cuts. “Our educators are very passionate about what they do. They go out to the classroom and that make connections and everyone is disappointed and they want the work to continue.”

“I was a teen mother and so it's very important to me to get information to young people that I didn't receive,” Kathy Harms said.

Harms is the founder of Teen emPower, a group that uses peer-to-peer teaching in its courses. But it may have to cut back on help if the county is left without funding.

“We've been able to expand to work with 6th to 8th grade students which the numbers are going to be much greater,” Harms said. “But that may come to a close if we lose this funding.