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Pregnancy prevention funds going to agency

July 12, 2006|by TARA REILLY

HAGERSTOWN - More than $134,000 for teen pregnancy prevention put on hold in April by the Washington County Commissioners will go to the Washington County Health Department.

The County Commissioners on Tuesday voted 4-1 to release the money, after a teen pregnancy task force recommended that the Health Department receive the funding.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell was the only commissioner to oppose the action.

"We just blindly throw money to the Health Department every time they ask for it," Wivell said after the meeting.

He questioned whether the contribution was necessary and whether other organizations that offer teen pregnancy prevention programs were given fair consideration.

The Health Department requested the $134,097 in March to pay for a nurse practitioner, a media campaign, supplies and medicine to combat teen pregnancy.

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The county's Budget and Finance Department initially included the money for the Health Department in the county's budget, but the commissioners put it aside until they determined whether the money should be used for other teen pregnancy programs in the county.

The commissioners asked the task force to take a look at the Health Department's request.

Maureen Grove, chair of the task force, said the group voted unanimously to recommend that the Health Department receive the money. Members of the task force also spoke in favor of the Health Department's request at a May public hearing held by the commissioners.

The Health Department's program supports suggestions the task force made in September on ways to reduce the number of teens getting pregnant, according to information provided by the county.

The county continues to see a high number of teens giving birth, according to the Health Department.

In 2004 - the last year for which data is available - 206 females between the ages of 15 and 19 had babies, an increase from 185 births in 2003, according to the Health Department.

Wivell said three or four other organizations expressed interest in using the money to reduce the teen pregnancy rate, but that they weren't considered.

"What other (programs) did you all consider?" Wivell asked Grove.

"None, really," Grove said.

Of the $134,097, approximately $96,000 is for the salary and benefits of the nurse practitioner, $20,000 is for the media campaign and the remaining amount is for medicine and supplies, said Earl Stoner, deputy health officer.

Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said she supported the Health Department's request because the nurse practitioner also would assist with school-based health programs.

She said that would help keep students healthy and more attentive in the classroom.

"Kids are going to school sick because they have no place else to go," Nipps said. "To have successful schools, you need to have kids in them who are (healthy)."

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