Weekly Feature

2017-08-23 / Front Page

HOPE Buffalo sees grant funding cut by two years

by ETHAN POWERS
Editor

When HOPE Buffalo received a federal grant in July 2015 that would bolster the nonprofit’s efforts to reduce skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates in certain zip codes within Erie County, it seemed as if the mountainous task was now capable of climbing.

That was until the current federal administration informed HOPE Buffalo that it would cut funding to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program by two years.

“We feel like, ‘Why would you pull the rug out from under us with two years remaining on the contract?’ To me, it’s all still puzzling,” said Stan Martin, HOPE Buffalo’s project director.

HOPE Buffalo is a subsidiary project of Cicatelli Associates Inc. — a New York -based nonprofit dedicated to improving the health and well-being of communities throughout the state through education about HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, family planning and mental health.

In partnership with the Erie County Department of Health, HOPE Buffalo was awarded a $10 million grant in July 2015 that would span five years. With the administration’s decision, funding is now only guaranteed until June 2018. The grant, awarded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health, was allocated to facilitate and resource a community-driven plan to reduce teen pregnancy in nine targeted zip code areas within Erie County (14201, 14204, 14206, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14211, 14213, 14215), by 30 percent, by the year 2020.

Within these specified areas, the average teen birth rate in 2012 was 61.3 per 1,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19. According to HOPE Buffalo, that statistic is more than three times greater than the state’s average of 18.5 per 1,000 and the 2013 national teen birth rate of 26.5 per 1,000 females, excluding data from New York City.

Through what they refer to as “evidence-based interventions,” or “EBIs,” HOPE Buffalo hopes to implement strategies that incorporate scientific data regarding teen pregnancy in an effort to educate communities about comprehensive adolescent health and wellness. Some of these EBIs require educators traveling directly to schools or working vicariously through health care providers.

“When we talk about younger kids, we talk about bonding and trust,” said Martin. “When we get to the seventh and eighth graders, we implement a program called, ‘Be Proud, Be Responsible.’ We get more into the importance of delaying becoming sexually active and access to public services so that if you are sexually active, these are some of the things that you need to be considering.”

The nonprofit has also introduced a program called “PATCH” (Providers And Teens Communicating Health) in which youth educators are hired to teach their peers about the importance of learning how to manage their own health. The program also offers opportunities for health care providers in which these youth educators can inform providers as to the best practices on how to engage and educate teen patients, but Martin believes that the program’s largest impact will be its ability to facilitate a conversation between teens about otherwise taboo topics.

“We try to engage health care providers in the conversations to ensure that their services are youth affirming, that they’re being non-judgmental when they’re communicating with a youth that may even be struggling with their sexual orientation or gender,” he said.

Since HOPE Buffalo received federal grant funding in 2015, the organization has been able to engage more than 40 organizations through the past two years as it rolls out strategies designed to lower teen birth rates. Whether or not that funding is there in the future, Martin says, will not have an effect on HOPE Buffalo’s ambition.

“Our sustainability efforts, as a result of this decision, have been moved forward by two years,” he said. “We’re proud that the community has demanded that HOPE Buffalo continues to ensure that every youth has access to services beyond the lifespan of this grant.”

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