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Portion Of Metro Health Budget Passed To Tackle Teen Pregnancy

City of San Antonio

The city's $2.4 billion budget is set to be voted on by members of the City Council next week. But council members already said yes to part of the Metro Health budget to tackle teen pregnancy in the area, although it did meet with some opposition.

Nearly $11 million of Metro Health's overall budget has been approved to target six areas of health in San Antonio and Bexar County: HIV and syphilis prevention, diabetes prevention, neighborhood health strategies, school based oral health, baby cafe sustainable breastfeeding, and teen pregnancy prevention.

Prevention is one word that pops up a lot. Metro Health director Dr. Thomas Schlenker said that's because the money, $1 billion in all over several years, comes from the feds for preventative health measures.

The point of the funding is to help people fight off illness before they go to the hospital, Schlenker said

The controversy comes in with the teen pregnancy prevention component. Dr. Schlenker recognized a small but vocal group of people who he said often misunderstands the issue.

Though, he believes the majority of folks understand that even teens who become sexually active need care.

"And there's also wide support for those teens who are sexually active for making sure that they have access to effective contraception," Dr. Schlenker said.

During the official vote of the program, officially known as the Medicaid 1115 Waiver, Councilman Mike Gallagher said he is uncomfortable with the dangers involving young people and some of the drugs involved with the contraception. He also thinks this is not a city issue.

"I really do not believe, and it is my personal position, that the city should be involved in teenage pregnancy, that this is something that really is a family matter and that's how it should be handled," Gallagher said to his colleagues from the dais at City Council chambers. "And for that reason, I'm going to have to vote no."

Councilman Diego Bernal respectfully disagreed with Gallagher, telling the council and the crowd gathered at the meeting that the most aggressive teen pregnancy efforts taken so far at Tafolla Middle School has worked in a big way.

"Since our intervention there, we've been able to cut the teen pregnancy rate by more than half," he said. "I know for those women, they've been given another opportunity on a fruitful and expansive life. The idea that we offer a variety of tools to help prevent teen pregnancy, the most creative of which are only offered with the consent of their parents if they're underage, I think is absolutely the business of the city and I ask for your support. Thank you."

The council separated the teen pregnancy prevention component from the rest of the funding areas because Mayor Ivy Taylor is a board member of Healthy Futures of Texas, which focuses on the same issue of teen pregnancy. Council support passed on both votes.