BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Teen pregnancy -- it's something leaders in Buffalo are calling a silent crisis.
"We need to work at a fever pace to reduce teen pregnancy numbers and thereby begin to tackle poverty numbers,” said Rev. Kinzer Pointer of Greater Buffalo United Ministries.
In nine zip codes that span a majority of the east and west sides of the city, the teen birth rate was 61.3 per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in the year 2012. That's compared to the state's average rate of 18.5 and 2013's national rate of 26.5. In an effort to curb those numbers, HOPE Buffalo was launched.
"Those who are underserved, disenfranchised, marginalized have or need more resources,” said Stan Martin, HOPE Buffalo project director. “If we address the social determinants of health we provide our adolescents and community with help for their future."
A $10 million federal grant from the Office of Adolescent Health is divvied up into several evidence-based intervention methods. On the education side, Buffalo Public Schools officials explained students young and old will learn about building relationships as well as negotiation and refusal skills.
"Students who have been in that program have reduction in teen pregnancy, drug use, stay in school longer, higher graduation rate,” said Assunta Ventresca, BPS health related services director.
Another factor is access to healthcare. Although minors can receive free preventative care under the Affordable Care Act, Dr. Gale Burstein said oftentimes providers aren't comfortable or used to offering these services. To combat this, the Erie County Health Department will host contraceptive and sexual health training to doctors across our area.
"Whole office or clinic becoming youth friendly and being nice to the teen when they walk in and register and not insisting they have a parent with them,” said Burstein.
The goal is to reduce the teen pregnancy rate by 30 percent in those targeted areas by 2020.
"My hope and prayer is that we begin to see as an entire community the value of supporting our young people at the earliest ages so they can be intentionally successful,” Rev. Pointer said.
To learn more about this initiative, visit this website.