Town Hall Meeting was held in Brookhaven to Talk about Mississippi’s Teen Pregnancy EpidemicBy Lawayne Childrey | Published 27 Nov 2012 07:47pm |
Mississippi leads the nation with the highest teen birthrate. Experts say teen childbearing cost taxpayers at least 159 million dollars annually in public health care, child welfare and lost tax revenue. During a town hall meeting in Brookhaven yesterday members of the community discussed the teen pregnancy epidemic and ways to reduce it. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports.
Nearly 200 people filled the dining hall of the First United Methodist Church in Brookhaven to discuss problems, causes and solutions related to Mississippi's teen pregnancy rates. State Senator Sally Doty is also chairperson for the Governor’s Task Force on the Reduction of Teenage Pregnancy. Even though the group has conducted community meetings in other parts of the state Doty says it’s important to bring the message to her own district which currently has the 4th highest teen pregnancy rate in Mississippi.
"We may wanna pretend that it doesn't exist or that it happens to someone else. It really crosses every socioeconomic, race, cultural barrier. It is a problem that we see across the board. So we have a very diverse group at all of these meetings to get them to talk about the specific problem in their community and offer up some solutions."
While part of the problem of teen pregnancy may be fueled by lack of education Dr. Leigh Gray, an OBGYN at Kings Daughters Medical Center in Brookhaven believes financial incentives may play an even larger role.
"I think there are a lot of teenagers who see it into as a means into our welfare system and into the Medicaid system and a means to collect money. And I know that sound very harsh and bitter but that's reality."
15 year old Molly Refern, a student at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven has seen firsthand how some teens are suffering the consequences of becoming parents.
" They have lost a lot of friends. They should have graduated already but they haven't. And there whole personality has changed because of the child, there whole life has changed."
Between 1991 and 2008 there were approximately 147 thousand teen births in Mississippi. Lawayne Childrey MPB News.
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