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Commissioners commit $134,097 to reduce teen pregnancy

April 15, 2006|By TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Efforts to fight teen pregnancy in Washington County might receive a financial boost from the County Commissioners for the coming fiscal year.

At the request of the Washington County Health Department, the commissioners have budgeted $134,097 for teen pregnancy in the county's proposed fiscal year 2007 operating budget.

If approved, the budget would become effective July 1.

The money would be used to pay for a full-time nurse practitioner, a media campaign targeted at teens and parents, and for medical supplies, Health Department Officer William Christoffel said Friday.

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The nurse practitioner would be stationed at Elgin Station Community Center in Hagerstown's West End.

"I'm guessing that we want to do something for that program, but we want to make sure that it works both for the School Board and the Health Department," Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said.

Christoffel has said that in 2004, there were 206 females between the ages of 15 and 19 who had babies, an increase from 185 births in 2003. 2004 is the last year for which data is available.

One commissioner took issue with allocating the money for teen pregnancy.

"I'm not in favor of increasing that," Commissioner William J. Wivell said Friday.

He said the county gave the Health Department $100,000 last year to reduce the number of teens getting pregnant, but it didn't appear to help.

"The numbers I've seen is they actually got worse last year," Wivell said.

Christoffel said the $100,000 paid for a part-time nurse practitioner at Elgin Community Station.

He said it will take time for the county to see positive results from the teen pregnancy effort.

In California, for example, it took four or five years before there was a sustained reduction in teens giving birth, he said.

"To say it has not been successful is unfortunate," Christoffel said.

Wivell said he thought parents should take charge in educating their children about teen pregnancy.

"The whole teen pregnancy thing is a societal issue, and I don't believe it's something the school system is at fault for," Wivell said. "It all goes back to parenting."

In total, the commissioners have budgeted a $337,692 funding increase for the Health Department.

In addition to the teen pregnancy dollars, the commissioners also have proposed $150,000 for salary increases for Health Department employees, half of the cost of the increases.

Christoffel said the state mandated 4.5 percent salary increases for employees, but hasn't provided the money to pay for the raises.

"The state gave pay raises to all state employees, but they didn't fully fund it, and the county very generously is willing to pay half of the state-mandated pay increases," he said.

Wivell said he opposed allocating money for the increases. He thinks it should be the state's responsibility.

"I think if the state's going to approve ... salary increases for their employees, they should pay for them," Wivell said. "It's just an odd way of doing business."

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