What’s the CATCH?

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By Maggie Keller

Seven thousand girls under the age of 17 became pregnant last year throughout New York City. 90 percent were unplanned and of those, more than 60 percent were aborted, according to the Board of Health.

Last year, the city of New York launched the pilot program called CATCH, standing for Connecting Adolescents to Comprehensive Health. The program offers free contraceptives to students in New York City. In early 2011 CATCH launched in five schools throughout New York City.

There are currently 13 schools that have the program. Each school was chosen because it was either in neighborhoods lacking in nearby health clinics or because of high teen pregnancy rates in the area. The ultimate goal of the program is to lower the teen pregnancy rates.

In New York City the teen pregnancy rates dropped 25 percent from 2001 to 2010.

“If the program were to be offered in the local schools in our area, then students and schools might benefit in the way that our local teen pregnancy rates could be lowered,” NAHS senior Korri Hall said.“Though it might lower the rates, it would not necessarily solve the real problem of teen pregnancy.”

This fall, for the first time in New York City, students also have access to Depo-Provera, which is an injectable form of birth control. According to sources, NYC students support the whole CATCH program.

“Most students in our [NA-FC] schools would be against the program and most parents would oppose it also,” NAHS junior Lyndsay Diebold,  said.

“Personally, I don’t believe that the majority of the parents and students in our school would agree to the program,” NAHS school nurse Mrs. Renodda Wahking said.

Parents of students in participating schools are sent a letter informing them of the availability of contraceptives to their child. Parents can choose to opt-out and check a box telling the school to not distribute contraceptives to their student. If parents do not respond or check the box, then the child can access the drugs without the permission of their parent.

“As a school nurse in the New Albany-Floyd County School Corporation, I am not permitted to distribute any type of drug without permission from the student’s parent and doctor, and I would personally not feel comfortable handing out contraception to students without the parent’s knowledge,” Wahking said.

One concern about the program is that some students are not educated fully about the drug, its side effects, and what it really does. There are also fears that some teens are not educated enough on sexual health and values in schools.

“I do think we need to use caution in providing the Plan B pill to teens that may not fully understand why and how to use it,” New York psychologist and founder and CEO of Janisaw Company, which specializes in life skills programs for young women, Scyatta Wallace, said.

“Schools should have a protocol for how the drug will be distributed and provide follow-ups on the student to assure they are physically ok,” Wallace said.

“There really isn’t enough sexual health education provided in the schools in general, so it is alarming that they would offer Plan B in the absence of that,” Wallace said.

“There needs to be more sexual education in schools,” Wahking said. “It is ultimately a Catch 22.”

Did the teen pregnancy rate information shock you?

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The Student News Site of New Albany High School
What’s the CATCH?