Testimony of Andrea Thomas on February 26, 2014
Sexual Wellness Program Coordinator, Latin American Youth Center (LAYC)
To the D.C. Department of Health, Community Health Administration, and the
Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Advisory Committee
Annual Public Hearing on the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant
Good evening, everyone. I am delighted to speak to you on behalf of my organization today. My name is Andrea Thomas, and I am the Sexual Wellness Program Coordinator with the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC).
Today I want to discuss our teen pregnancy prevention efforts, which, without the support of the Summit Foundation, would not have been possible. The Summit Fund has been instrumental in providing vision and funding for LAYC and other high-performing community-based organizations that have taken on this critical public health issue.
Since 2010, LAYC has implemented a sexual health and wellness program that offers pregnancy testing, options counseling, and linkages to care to low-income, immigrant, and minority teens in a safe, bilingual, and culturally sensitive environment. Through this program, teens have access to free HIV and STI screenings. In addition, Summit funds our complementary program, Connections to Contraception, which increases teens’ access to contraception and reduces unplanned pregnancies by providing free contraception in addition to free STI treatment.
Summit’s financial support has allowed LAYC to make significant strides against teen pregnancy. For example, in FY13 we conducted 169 pregnancy tests and 220 STI tests.
Because LAYC’s pregnancy prevention services are free, bilingual, and available on-site, we reach youth who are often unwilling, unable, or unlikely to seek services in traditional clinical settings. Being on-site at LAYC also makes the services extremely convenient for youth who already attend our programs or receive our services. Additionally, LAYC is located in an area accessible to youth, both living in the neighborhood and those coming to us via public transportation.
LAYC’s outcomes demonstrate that LAYC plays a key role in reducing District-wide teen pregnancy and STI rates while keeping our city’s young people healthy. Unfortunately, unplanned first and second pregnancies among our Latina and African-American young women continues to threaten their stability and development, leaving much more work to be done.
LAYC is deeply concerned about the future of our sexual health programming and our ability to meet at-risk youth’s need for these services. The impending sunset of Summit’s funding places enormous financial pressure on LAYC and our community partners. We recognize the efforts of the Department of Health, the Community Health Administration, and the Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant Advisory Committee in protecting the District’s most vulnerable residents. Thus, we urge you to make teen pregnancy prevention a top funding priority and echo our peers’ recommendation of a permanent allocation of $1.5 milllion to sustain teen pregnancy prevention efforts.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.