Pregnancy prevention program for teens backed by panel for expansion

DENVER — About a decade ago, Montrose High School was known as “Maternity High” because of the high number of pregnant students it had, Montrose County Commissioner David White said.

That is no longer the case,  thanks to a teen pregnancy-prevention program, White told the House Health & Environment Committee on Tuesday.

“This teen-pregnancy issue has been a significant problem in the rural parts of the state,” White said. “Because of this program and others, there has been a dramatic reduction in those events, and the reputation of the high school is certainly being improved as a result.”

White’s testimony helped persuade the committee to approve a bill not only to extend that program and a similar one in Mesa County, but establish programs   elsewhere in the state.

Peg Mewes, director of the Montrose Department of Health and Human Services, said the programs don’t use any state money because they are 90 percent funded by the federal government. The remaining 10 percent comes from either county governments or private grants, she said.

Mewes said the program in Montrose and Delta counties mentors about 100 male and female students at a time.

“This program is much, much more than trying to prevent pregnant adolescents. It’s more than trying to keep these kids from dropping out of school,” she said. “We do activities with these kids. These kids need social skills, they need communications skills.”

Jackie Sievers, director of Hilltop’s Get Real program in Mesa County, said her program operates much in the same way and that it has helped keep children in school and out of trouble with the law.

The program serves about 200 middle and high school students a year, she said.

One of them is Katelyn Kelly, a 17-year-old from Grand Junction. Kelly told the committee she doesn’t know what her life would be like if she didn’t have the program.

“I found a place I can go to ask questions that my parents can’t answer, either because it’s awkward or they just don’t know,” she said. “It’s been one of the most solid places in my life. My life isn’t always stable, but Get Real is pretty much always there.”

The bill, which already cleared the Senate, heads to the House Appropriations Committee for more debate.



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