Cumberland County, NJ
School officials at Cumberland Regional High School (CRHS) in Cumberland County, NJ are closer to approving a school-based health center that will include sexual health services as a result, in part, of realizing that the teen pregnancy rate at CRHS is much higher than they had believed.
In April, the retirement of the CRHS school nurse, created what school officials deemed “a void” in the services being provided at the school. Officials agreed that the nurse had been instrumental in working beyond her “regular responsibilities” to connect students in need of health services with transportation to community-based medical centers where they could receive comprehensive health care. To help fill this void, school board members met in May with Community Health Care, Inc., a group of community-based medical centers, to discuss the possibility of opening of a comprehensive health clinic on school grounds.[i]
Community Health Care already operates in-school comprehensive health care clinics at two schools in Cumberland County. Both of those school based health centers also offer Community Health Care’s Sexual Accountability for Everyone (SAFE) program, which was a part of the proposal for CRHS. The SAFE program provides sexual health services, including gynecological exams, pregnancy and STD tests, and birth control prescriptions.”[ii]
Although most school board members acknowledged that the retirement of the school nurse had created a void, some did not believe there was a need for a full service health clinic that included sexual health services on campus. However, after the meeting with the SAFE director it became obvious that some members of the board were unaware of how high the pregnancy rate actually was at CRHS. One board member was quoted in April as saying “she was only aware of 3 or 4 pregnancies at CRHS ‘last year’” and that “we don’t have a pregnancy problem at Regional.”[iii] However, that same week the Cumberland County director of SAFE maintained that students from CRHS had in fact accounted for a total of “30 pregnancies…during the 2007–2008 school year.” She added “you can bet that every time that there was a pregnancy test, someone was having unprotected sex.”[iv]
After further discussion among health care providers and school administrators, school board members are closer to approving the on-site clinic.[v] One school board official said that the only concern remaining was about parental consent and ways to ensure the board’s commitment to providing parents with explicit notice of “what they are giving consent to when they allow their teenagers to visit the [school-based health center].”[vi]
Though the community is still waiting for the full school board to hold a final vote, the director of SAFE stated that “the mere fact that the [CRHS] officials were willing to meet with [Community Health Care] officials is a good sign” and maintained that the “meaningful inquiry” that had been conducted by the school board members was “encouraging.”[vii] SIECUS will continue to monitor the situation.
[i] Matt Dunn, “Cumberland Regional School Board Considering Comprehensive Health Care on School Grounds,” The News of Cumberland County, 10 May 2009, accessed 28 May 2009, <www.nj.com/south/index.ssf/2009/05/cumberland_regional_school_boa_html>.
[ii] Matt Dunn, “Health Official: Cumberland Regional High School Teen Pregnancies Underestimated,” 30 April 2009, accessed 28 May 2009, <www.nj.com/south/index.ssf/2009/04/health_official_cumberland_reg.html>.
[iii] Ibid; Dunn, “Cumberland Regional School Board Considering Comprehensive Health Care on School Grounds.”
[iv] Dunn, “Health Official: Cumberland Regional High School Teen Pregnancies Underestimated.”
[v] Matt Dunn, “Cumberland Regional Officials to Talk Teen Pregnancy,” The News of Cumberland County, 6 May 2009, accessed 28 May, <www.nj.com/south/index.ssf/2009/05/cumberland_regional_officials.html>.
[vii] Dunn, “Cumberland Regional School Board Considering Comprehensive Health Care on School Grounds.”