Federal funding cuts feared under new administration
By Ann McCreary
Family planning services across the country are facing likely budget cuts under the new Trump administration, and that could have repercussions in Okanogan County, which has the third-highest teen pregnancy rate in Washington.
The looming prospect of funding cuts concerns the staff of Room One, which provides services aimed at reducing teen pregnancy throughout the county.
“One in 20 girls will become a parent before reaching the age of 19,” said Adrianne Moore, associate director of Room One. “It’s a striking health issue in our community.”
“Year after year, teen pregnancy prevention funding seems to come up on the chopping block,” said Elana Mainer, Room One executive director. “The risk is even higher this year that funding will be reduced.”
In anticipation of funding cuts, a family planning benefit event is being hosted by the Mazama Country Inn on Feb. 11, described as “an evening of jazz to benefit Room One and to ensure individuals have access to family planning services within our community.”
The event features music by pianist Wayne Horvitz and bassist Joe Casalini, and appetizers and drinks for purchase. Admission is $50 per person for a reserved seat or by donation at the door. Information is available at www.roomone.org.
Room One received a five-year grant in 2015 through the federal Office of Adolescent Health to reduce teen pregnancy and address some of the underlying issues that contribute to it, including poverty and lack of access to contraception.
The funding has enabled Room One to develop a program called “Okanogan Healthy Youth,” Moore said.
“We are mid-way through year two of the grant, and most policy analysts are saying the following years of funding for this grant will likely be cut under the new administration,” Moore said.
That means funding will be cut for programs developed under the grant, including sexual health education programs in Okanogan County schools in areas with the highest rates of teen pregnancy.
“This year we worked with Paschal Sherman Indian School and the Pateros School District,” Moore said.
The funding has also supported creation of a Youth Leadership Council, comprised of teens from around the county. The group is “focused on ensuring teen have the skills and resources they need to prevent pregnancy and maintain healthy relationships,” Moore said.
Room One has also worked with local health clinics, including the Family Health Centers in Twisp, to ensure access to “youth-friendly” services for teens, and access to the most effective form of contraceptives, called long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs).
These contraceptives include IUDs and implants, and have been shown to be “incredibly effective at reducing unintended pregnancies and abortions,” Moore said.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), which includes reproductive services and contraception under its mandated coverage, is also targeted by the new administration, which is calling for its repeal. That also has Room One staff concerned.
“The ACA has greatly increased coverage for women of reproductive age,” Moore said. Even if another health insurance plan is put it place, it is unlikely to include reproductive health coverage under the current national leadership, she said.
Room One will continue its efforts to raise money to support programs that prevent teen pregnancies, but can’t hope to match the funding available through the federal government, Moore said.