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NIAGARA GROUPS SEEK WAYS TO STEM RISING CURRENT OF TEEN PREGNANCIES

A loose-knit task force is taking a closer look at Niagara County's increasing problem of teen-age pregnancy, and how various agencies can coordinate educational, medical and other services.

"Niagara has the eighth highest (teen-age pregnancy) rate in New York State," said Priscilla Bailey, director of patient services for the Niagara County Health Department, who pointed out figures from the state Health Department.

She said that to combat the problem, the department's nursing division "is acting as a facilitator to address the many issues associated with high-risk mothers and babies."

She is hopeful that initial steps toward organization will become permanent.

The communitywide network of concern will deal with problems that arise both before and after the baby's birth, Mrs. Bailey said.

"During the pregnancy period, stress will be placed on health education and the need for the person to have a physician's service and support. After the birth we want to make sure there is a follow-up and health counseling available for both the mother and child," Mrs. Bailey said.

"For some reason -- and we really don't know all the causes -- Niagara County's teen pregnancy rate has been consistently about 20 percent higher than the overall upstate area for the past five years," she said.

She said that while recent statistics are on the problem are unavailable, data from 1986 show that of 3,100 babies born in Niagara County, 242 were out of wedlock involving youths.

Statistics from 1985 and 1986 show that youths accounted for 10 percent of all the county's pregnancies, she said.

"But whatever the numbers, we know they are still high and the real question is, 'Why?' " she said.

"The task force will be addressing the issue. . . . Our goal will be to improve the quality of life for these mothers and babies."

She was assisted during a community meeting earlier this month in her office on Upper Mountain Road in the Town of Lockport by Lorraine Besse, the department's public health coordinator.

About 14 persons representing several area agencies attended the session.

Mrs. Bailey called the meeting "a great step forward."

It was attended by representatives of Planned Parenthood of Niagara County Inc., the Center for Young Parents, Women's Infants & Children's Program, Niagara County Department of Social Services Teen-Age Assistance Program, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center's Family Practice Program, Niagara-Orleans Board of Cooperative Educational Services Parenting Program, American Cancer Society, Niagara County Physically Handicapped Program, and the Niagara County Speech and Hearing Program.

"We were very pleased with the representation," she said.

"We talked about the things each group is doing and how we can better coordinate our services. We feel that with such organizations pooling resources we can better deal with the issue."

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