Mifflin County agencies combat teen pregnancy

LEWISTOWN – Mifflin County has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in Pennsylvania, according to the National Vital Statistics System, which the National Center for Health Statistics uses to collect and disseminate national data.

In comparison, Juniata County had 25 teen pregnancies over the past year, Snyder had 20 teen pregnancies, in Huntingdon 30 teen pregnancies were recorded and it was ranked 28th, while there were 38 teen pregnancies in Mifflin county.

Local health centers provide services for teenagers to help address the matter in the area.

Alicia Bray, a PA-C at the Primary Health Network in Lewistown, said the main risk for teen pregnancy is the lifestyle of young adults in the area. She said there’s not a lot of activities for young adults so that increases the chance of teens participating in potentially risky behavior.

“It’s really sad, because teens who get pregnant are more likely to have another child soon after, so the cycle continues,” Bray said.

She said the Primary Health Network is here because of the high number of people enrolled in medicaid in the area. Statistics show that Mifflin and Juniata counties both have high numbers of people with limited or no health insurance, according to The Mifflin Juniata Human Services Needs Assessment 2013.

Teen pregnancies in Pennsylvania cost tax payers at least $463.4 million in 2008, according to an analysis from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The costs are for public healthcare, such as Medicaid and CHIP, and child welfare.

Bray said teens aren’t as educated as they should be on the potential consequences of sexual activity. She concluded that if parents communicate more with their children about sexuality and contraception, the teens may be less likely to become pregnant.

“It’s great when parents and children come together (through communication),” she said.

The Crossroads Pregnancy Center in Lewistown also provides services to teens facing pregnancy.

Cindy Mansberger, executive director of center, said it provides free pregnancy counseling, along with an “earn while you learn” program called Bridges.

Bridges is a free program that allows clients to meet with staff and learn about pregnancy and parenting. The teen parents can then exchange the completed classes for materials like diapers, car seats or cribs.

“We support those who come to us materially, emotionally and spiritually,” Mansberger said.

She said they also are in the process of completing everything necessary to perform ultrasound confirmation of pregnancies.

Another free program the center offers to educate teens is the Sexual Integrity Program, which teaches teenagers how to make healthy sexual choices and encourages abstinence.

“I believe our center helps teens in various ways. Education, support and information are the first things that come to mind,” she said.

The Crossroads Pregnancy Center is faith based, so it never recommends abortion to pregnant teens. However, the staff educate teens on the options of adoption and parenting, along with discussing the health risks of abortion.

Mansberger believes that, at the adolescent stage, many young women are searching for love and acceptance, and will go to great lengths to achieve it. She said they’ll expose themselves to precarious situations like bad relationships, peer pressure, and drug and alcohol use.

Mansberger also believes parents can play a role in influencing their children to make better decisions when it comes to sexual behavior.

“Parents can have a great influence on the decisions their teens make about sex, so any lack of good communication on the parents’ part in expressing their expectations could be a factor (in teen pregnancy),” she said.

Anyone seeking information on free pregnancy tests or birth control can contact the Primary Health Network, 21 S. Brown St., Lewistown, at 447-0340.

Anyone interested in free pregnancy tests, options counseling or other programs can contact the Crossroads Pregnancy Center, 38 N. Main St., Mifflintown, at 436-0024.