Colorado teen-pregnancy program shows results

By Dale Rodebaugh-Durango Herald

The use of intrauterine devices, IUDs, and other long-acting reversible contraceptives played a major role in reducing the number of teen births 35 percent in La Plata County and 47 percent in Archuleta County from 2009 to 2013, a San Juan Basin Health Department report said.

In La Plata County, the number of pregnancies among girls ages 15 to 19 dropped from 49 in 2009 to 32 in 2013, health department statistics show.

Much of the success can be attributed to the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, a 5-year-old program that provides the contraceptives to low-income teens and young women throughout the state.

The statewide decline in the teen births from 2009 through 2013 was 40 percent.

Because half of pregnancies are unintended, the importance of reducing their number is obvious, said Liane Jollon, the health department’s executive director.

“Giving women the opportunity to plan and space their children allows the best health outcome for moms, for babies and for the family in general,” Jollon said. “We know LARCs (long-acting, reversible contraceptive) devices are very effective in helping women plan and space their children.

“Children who come at the right time in life have the best opportunity for health and success,” Jollon said.

The goal of her department is fewer unplanned pregnancies, Jollon said.

Teen pregnancy remains an issue. But the state Department of Public Health and Environment says it is one of 10 winnable battles.

The Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which will expire June 30, was sponsored by an anonymous source. Republicans on a Colorado Senate committee two weeks ago killed an effort to provide $5 million to expand the family planning initiative.

Dr. Larry Wolk, executive director and chief medical officer at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, is determined to keep the unwanted pregnancy program going.

Wolk plans to approach private sources again to fund the program. He said some preliminary interest has been shown.

The San Juan Basin Health Department will continue its efforts to prevent teen pregnancy through its Sexual Health Clinic, Jollon said. The clinic is available to all residents of La Plata and Archuleta counties for annual exams, screenings for sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy tests, birth-control methods and examinations for infections.

A smoking-cessation program and health-and-fitness education also will be offered, Jollon said.