July 9, 2015

Molly Franks, Multnomah County health educator (left) and Miguel Canales, Multnomah County community health specialist, work with Latino parents in 2014 about how to talk to kids about sexual health

The Multnomah County Health Department has been awarded a $6.25 million federal grant to help young people, their parents, and their teachers prevent unintended teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

On July 1, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health awarded the county $1.25 million a year for five years to replicate evidence-based programs in middle schools, high schools and culturally specific community-based settings. The Adolescents and Communities Together project is being conducted in partnership with Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.

In Multnomah County, the most alarming disparities in teen birth rates are among American Indians/Alaskan Natives, Blacks/African Americans, and Latinas.  These same youth also experience disparities for many co-occurring risk factors such as STDs, socioeconomic disadvantage, educational attainment, and lack of positive youth development opportunities and supports.

This project will serve more than 12,000 young people in specific geographic areas of the county and work with key community partners to reduce these disparities and improve all youth’s ability to thrive.

 “This award is a huge step forward for our community,’’ said Chair Deborah Kafoury. “Together with our trusted partners, we can dismantle long-standing disparities in a tangible and sustainable way.’’

Effort is a community partnership

Multnomah County will partner with school districts and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland Metro, Latino Network, Native American Youth and Family Center and Self-Enhancement Inc.

Tony Hopson, president and CEO of Self Enhancement Inc. said, “SEI applauds the County on its forethought to include culturally-specific organizations in this effort.  We look forward to increasing our collective impact to help young people."

Other partners echoed that excitement.

“We are thrilled to enter this collaborative project focused on healthy sexuality education and violence prevention by teaching our Native young people how to make the best decisions for themselves,’’ said Matt Morton, executive director of the NAYA Family Center and member of the Squaxin Island Tribe. “Our youth need factual, science-based information delivered to them by people who they can trust and reflect their cultural values and background."

Carmen Rubio, executive director of Latino Network, said, "We are excited for the opportunity to bring a family-centered, culturally-specific approach to prevent teenage pregnancy among Latinos and Latinas in Multnomah County. It is a privilege to be working with other great organizations and the county, all of whom share our values and are committed to reducing teenage pregnancy rates." 

Erin Hubert, CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Portland Metro, said “The Boys & Girls Clubs are privileged to be identified by the County to join these highly respected organizations to deliver life-changing services and programs to our community’s youth.’’

“There is no doubt these resources will help the thousands of young people we serve in the Metro area gain important knowledge and access to critical health resources,” Hubert said. “Building a collaborative network with partners across the county, all working to reduce health disparities,, will ensure fewer youth fall through the cracks, and youth and families have the information they need to make healthy choices that positively impact their lives.”

Project will focus on specific geographic areas

The project will focus on neighborhoods and school districts with high populations of affected communities, or high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, or both. These geographic areas include:

St. Johns/Portsmouth
Inner Northeast Portland
Parkrose School District
David Douglas: Hazelwood/MillPark/Powellhurst
East County school district areas

“We are thrilled that our programming, expertise and experience were recognized by the OAH,” said Camelia Hison, Vice President of Education at Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.  “Planned Parenthood is proud to provide evidence-based programming and to empower students, parents, teachers, community members and professionals to help teens prevent unintended pregnancies. While we’re gratified that Oregon’s teen pregnancy rate is at an historic 40-year low, we still have work to do. Access to information, resources and quality health care is a fundamental right for all people and shouldn’t depend on who we are or where we live.”