State Senator Velmanette Montgomery called for the adoption of her three-pronged Teen Health Agenda aimed at safeguarding New York’s young people from sexually-transmitted disease and unintended pregnancy.
Montgomery’s Teen Health Agenda was discussed and supported by members of the Senate Democratic Conference during a news briefing calling for the Senate’s passage of the Healthy Teens Act (S.1342/A.2856). This legislation sets up a local-option grant program through the State Department of Health to fund community-based sex education programs.
The senator and her colleagues were joined by representatives of the Get the Facts NY Coalition, including JoAnn M. Smith of Family Planning Advocates, Dr. Carri E. Schotter-Thal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, along with parents, students and members of faith-based organizations.
Montgomery, who is a co-sponsor of the Healthy Teens Act, said, “There is no denying that our young people are talking about and engaging in sexual activity. We need to replace dialogues about abstinence-only with educational talks about sexuality that will empower youth to make smart choices about their personal health.
“Research demonstrates that comprehensive sex education, which teaches both abstinence and contraception, is most effective at reducing teen pregnancy and reducing risk for HIV-infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases.”
Underscoring the urgency for action, the senator noted that in New York State, six out of every ten high school students have sex before they graduate, resulting in approximately 40,000 teen pregnancies each year — the highest rate in the nation. In addition, a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that one in four teen girls has a sexually transmitted infection.
Other components of Montgomery’s Teen Health Agenda include:
· The approval of her legislation (S.6205) requiring the teaching of comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate health and sex education in public schools and charter schools. Currently, this instruction is not required, and there is no dedicated state funding streams for this purpose. The new health and sex education curriculum would be developed by the NYS Departments of Education, Health and Mental Health.
· More state funding for New York’s 196 School- Based Health Centers (SBHCs). The centers, which bring free-of-charge primary health care and mental health services to students of all ages, are suffering huge financial losses due to steep increases in the number of new clinics and the number of children who are served. In the last eight years, the number of centers has increased by 28% and visit volume surged by 85%. In the past five years, 48 new health centers have opened while 16 have been forced to close due to insufficient funding. Despite the rise in applicants and the continued need for School-Based Health Care Centers, State funding has not met the financial needs for this vital health care service.