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Health van with contraceptives slowly works way to Falls schools

Last year the Community Health Center of Buffalo was allowed to park a van at Niagara Falls High School to offer health services, counseling and contraceptives to students.

The van will show up four times this school year.

"I definitely think it should be more than that," said junior Mia Maye, who was among the students pushing the school district for better sex education last year.

And student use has been low.

"I think it's because it's not advertised as much as it could be," she said.

The van will also make occasional stops at Niagara Falls elementary and junior high schools to provide primary care and dental services.

"The demand has not been that great," said Superintendent Mark R. Laurrie. "We are looking to streamline the paperwork involved for health screenings in general, which will make it more usable. More promotional work also needs to be done. We also hope that by having the dental clinic available to elementary parents, familiarity will increase. When this does pick up, we will have more presence of the van."

“We’ve had very low turnouts, but with any van, it definitely takes time for traction to pick up," said Clement Kwakye, the Niagara County director for Community Health Services.

District leaders allowed the van at the high school in response to students who said the district's sex education program, which emphasized abstinence, wasn't effective. State figures show Niagara Falls with high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Rather than using the van, many of the Falls students go to Community Health Center's building on Highland Avenue, Laurrie said.

Laurrie said the center's mobile van is scheduled to appear at some school in the district every other Tuesday, with the dental unit supplementing the off weeks at the elementary schools, usually on Thursdays.

"Based upon student participation and enrollment in the Community Health Center of Buffalo program, it was deemed that four trips to NFHS, and two trips to each of the other schools were appropriate," Laurrie said. "If participation increases, we can add additional days for the mobile health unit as needed."

The van's first visit to the high school was on Sept. 11. The next three visits are scheduled for Nov. 9, Feb. 12 and March 26.

"Any student interested in being treated for anything relating to family planning or contraceptives, they are to be referred to us," Kwakye said.

Kwakye said he hopes the school district will allow the van visits to continue in the 2019-20 school year.

"We’ll definitely want to keep it going forward for the following year. It’s a service that’s needed, and we feel that the more we’re out here, the more traffic will pick up with the mobile unit," Kwakye said.

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