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Future funds uncertain for adolescent programs

Cuts may affect teen centers, youth programs

POSTED: July 15, 2011 9:05 a.m.

Statewide adolescent health and youth development programs are on the chopping block this year due to a $1,280,085 reduction in funding.

The cuts are a result of reductions in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds for fiscal year 2012, according
to Sally Silbermann, public information officer of the Coastal Health District. The fiscal year began July 1.

Traditionally, the funds have supported clinical teen centers and community youth programs, she said.

Last year, the Coastal Health District received $150,000 to allocate to various AHYD programs within its eight-county region.

This year, the district is working with 70 percent of that amount and will receive $108,000 to support AHYD salaries and programming in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh counties.

The Liberty County Health Department allotted $49,000 in AYHD funds to 10 community programming partners in fiscal year 2011, but the future funding status now is uncertain.

“We are still assessing future funding allocations in light of the budget cuts,” Silbermann said. “So I can’t give a definitive answer on how these organizations may be impacted.”

Cedric Robertson, founder of the Liberty County Blazers AAU basketball organization, said he received an email last week notifying him of the cuts. His organization has benefitted from two years of funding and will have to reduce offerings without it, he said.

“Without the funds, we cannot get our kids back and forth to the health department, we cannot do the activities and different demonstrations we like to do, and we cannot reach out to as many people,” he said.

The Blazers organization, which has attracted about 60 young participants from around Liberty County, recently opened a youth center in Allenhurst. When necessary, the program shuttles children to the health department for physicals or clinical care, the founder said.

In addition to athletics, the center offers mentorship, tutoring and a structured environment for adolescents of both genders to grow and learn, which keeps them off the streets, Robertson said.

“In doing that, we teach them about life, values, skills, community service,” he said.

Donald Lovette, Liberty County commissioner and founder of the Love-It Players, said that while he understands the economic climate, he believes the cuts are a setback to youth services across the board. The Love-It Players, a teen theater troupe that produces three plays each year, has received AHYD funds in previous years but did not request funding for fiscal year 2012.

“We’ll have to dig deeper and find other ways to do it, but not having the finances to help you can only hurt what you’re trying to do,” Lovette said. The positive effects of these programs, which give children a sense of community, teach them to work together and build self-esteem, even trickles into schools, he added.

Other programming partners in Liberty County include Team Hinesville, Helen’s Haven Child Advocacy Center, the YMCA, Project Reach G.A.N.G. (God’s Anointed Now Generation), Riceboro Community Churches, Grow A Girl Network, Hinesville Safe Kids Day and National Night Out.

“Times are tough and we are going to work through this for the best benefit of the youth and families in our community,” Liberty County Health Department administrator Deidre Howell said.

The cuts also will cause dedicated teen centers to close. Teens still will have access to testing and prevention information through the department’s family planning program, Silbermann said.

The centers were created to provide family planning services and reproductive health education for youth between 10 and 19 years old with the aim of reducing pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases among teens.

In 2009, Liberty County reported 35 pregnancies among girls ages 15-17, a rate of 28 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in that age range, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health’s Online Analytical Statistical Information System. The state rate among teens ages 15-17 in 2009 was 31.3 pregnancies per 1,000 girls.

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