For many years, Okanogan county teens have been faced with a troubling fact: almost 1 in 20 of our teen girls will become a mother by the age of 19. However, not all of our teens are at the same risk of early parenthood. Teen parents are far more likely to have been victims of childhood abuse, sexual assault, individual and institutional racism; to live in poverty; and to have significant barriers to accessing reproductive health care. Our county’s high teen pregnancy rates are a reflection of these larger underlying social issues.
Building on eighteen years of addressing such health disparities through education, access to resources, and advocacy in the Methow Valley, we are thrilled to now be leading the effort to reduce teen pregnancy throughout Okanogan County through the Healthy Youth Initiative. As part of a bold statewide effort, Room One will bring evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs to school districts, community-based organizations, health clinics and juvenile detention. To help lead the Initiative, we have formed two powerful, diverse county-wide teams: a Community Advisory Group and a Youth Leadership Council.
In addition to our ongoing work providing sexual health education and youth development here in the Valley, this coming year we will partner with Paschal Sherman Indian School (on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation), Pateros School District, Juvenile Justice of Okanogan County, Family Health Centers, Boys and Girls Club of Brewster and Upward Bound. By bringing the Healthy Youth Initiative to our county, we will move the needle on teen pregnancy and build the futures of young people across the Okanogan.