Teen births cost New Mexico more than $100M a year

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Teens giving birth are likely costing New Mexico more than $100 million a year, health officials said this week.

The New Mexico Health Department cited a study Thursday from a teen pregnancy organization that indicated taxpayers spent $103 million in 2010 on births, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported (http://bit.ly/TCgEHl).

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy said the state spent $2.5 billion overall between 1991 and 2010. There were more than 93,000 births to teens in that period.

Subsidized health care and growing participation in public benefits programs were among the areas that required more funds, the study said.

The report also says the New Mexico birth rate for girls between ages 15 and 17 has dropped 43 percent since 2000.

However, the national birth rate for mothers in that age range fell by 48 percent. So despite the state’s progress, New Mexico ranked 50th nationally with a birth rate among teen girls of 47.5 per 1,000 in 2012.

Teen pregnancy appeared to be much higher among the Hispanic population in New Mexico and all over the U.S., according to the report. The state ranks 35th nationwide with a birth rate among Hispanic teen girls at 58.2 per 1,000. That’s above the national rate of 46 per 1,000.

Susan Lovett, who oversees the state Department of Health’s family planning program, said statistics like this can’t be ignored.

Experts working for the department attribute the rate of teen childbearing to high school dropout rates, limited access to contraceptives in rural areas and poverty levels.

Heather Metcalf, a Department of Health educational project manager, said the state is trying to take those statistics down even further with after-school programs in English and Spanish that tout academic goals.

“Those programs focus on educating teens about sexual health and getting them involved in the community so they have goals and higher aspirations - things that will encourage them to stay in school and delay their first sexual encounter,” Metcalf said.

The department is also making students aware of where they can get low-cost contraceptives and about family planning options, Metcalf said.

Last year, the state started a text messaging service for teens. Dubbed BrdsNBz, the service lets teens text sexual health questions to certified health professionals and get a response in 24 hours or less.

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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