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SCHOOLS URGED TO HELP TROUBLED TEENS

One by one, the 24 physicians, professors and other professionals described the condition of the area's teen-agers.

Drug and alcohol abuse has caused a 25.7 percent increase in the admission of children younger than 2 to foster care.

Sixty-one percent of high school seniors are sexually active.

Led by Deputy State Assembly Speaker Arthur O. Eve, the 24 speakers addressed the Buffalo Board of Education about the health problems facing young people and urged that the city schools start a program to cut the spiraling rates of pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease and drug abuse among teens.

The speakers also offered to help.

"The School of Medicine stands ready to help you in a way that would be without cost to our school system," said Thomas Riemenschneider, associate vice president for clinical affairs at the University at Buffalo.

He offered to provide medical, dental and nursing students to go into the schools and teach healthy habits, noting that he successfully introduced such a program in Cleveland a decade ago.

They emphasized that the school is the place to help the young people.

Unless the community acts effectively on all health fronts through the schools, Eve warned, thousands of young people will be relegated to lives of unproductivity, devastation and despair.

"In the name of God almighty, help us to help these children make the right decisions," he said.

The physicians and professionals pointed to this area's high pregnancy rate among teens and to unusually high rates of deaths among their babies.

County Social Services Commissioner Karen Schimke said the lack of sex and health information among teens is reflected in the county's welfare rolls.

"The cost of providing services to the substance-abusing and teen-parent population is staggering," the commissioner said.

Mrs. Schimke said that providing Medicaid and welfare for one teen-ager abusing alcohol and drugs costs as much as $147,000 a year. Many children are taken from their families and placed under foster care because of alcohol or drug abuse, she said, noting a 25.7 percent increase last year of children younger than 2 being placed in foster care.

Dr. Barbara Nevergold, who oversees the foster-care placement at Friendship House in Lackawanna, spoke of the pain suffered by young parents when they are separated from their neglected infants.

"Many could have been helped right here by the school system," she said.

Dr. Gerald Daigler, chief of pediatrics at Children's Hospital, estimated that 61 percent of high school seniors are sexually experienced.

"It is critical that we develop a health education curriculum which is meaningful and not just fluff," he said. "An educated, well-informed youngster can do much more to control his or her destiny."

The School Board, with the exception of Board President Judith Fisher, did not comment directly.

Mrs. Fisher said that Central Board Member Bettye Blackman, who heads the program committee, is in charge of reviewing the schools' health education curriculum.

"I too would urge this committee to act with haste before more people die," she said.

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