January 2000

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Education credited for drop in teen pregnancy rate

By Marko Ruble Montrose Daily Press

MONTROSE – An emphasis on education has helped Montrose County reduce its teen pregnancy rate over the past decade. Montrose historically had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state, said Nancy Wilson, director of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI). In 1990, 68 of Montrose County’s 342 registered live births belonged to teen-age mothers, a birth rate of 35.8 babies for every 1,000 women between the ages of 14 and 19. By the end of 1999, the latest figures available from state and county agencies, Montrose County’s teen birth rate had fallen to 22.5 babies for every 1,000 women ages 14-19.

To help combat Montrose’s spiraling teen birth rate, TPPI was formed in 1993 with a $721,000 grant from the Colorado Trust, Wilson said. “Primary prevention is the answer,” she said of lowering the rate. “Primary prevention is trying to educate at-risk students before they get pregnant.” Factors for at-risk students include poverty, prior physical abuse, lack of extracurricular activities, delinquent behaviors, poor academic skills and history with a dysfunctional family, Wilson said. “Just remaining silent allows kids to fill in the blanks,” she said.

Teaching the BrainWise curriculum, TPPI’s primary prevention application, TPPI Program Specialist Britt Parks reaches not only kids in Montrose schools, but at-risk youth in Delta an Olathe as well. Since the program’s implementation in 1995, the number of people moving to Montrose County has continued to rise, but the number of babies belonging to teen-age mothers has dropped, Parks said. “I get credence and credibility from the students,” he said. “A big aspect of the program teaches them to stop and think. When they do something, they have to know that they are not the only ones facing the consequences.”

Anywhere from five to seven students are involved at each school Park visits. Primary prevention has not been the only focus of TPPI, Parks said. For teen mothers with babies, secondary prevention is the other half of the puzzle for the teen pregnancy initiative team. An Arizona study conducted by the Flinn Foundation shows that for a teen mother who dropped out of school, the chances of a second pregnancy rose six times versus that of a mother who graduated high school.

Efforts to curb a second pregnancy falls in the hands of The Passage Charter School. “Everything around here requires multiple tasks,” said Erin Fields, an instructor at the school. “We start with the basics and don’t assume anything.” With its capacity of 24 students, each on an individual education plan, a chance is given to teen mothers to obtain a high school diploma without worrying about daycare, Fields said.