PITTSFIELD -- The Berkshire United Way has secured a $60,000 grant to help further reduce the rate of teenage pregnancy in the county.
Face the Facts, an initiative to reduce teen pregnancy, will receive the funding over the next three years from the Easthampton-based Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts.
In the first year, the local Untied Way plans to spend the money on training parents and those who work with children how to talk about sexual issues, educate teenage boys abut preventing unwanted births and hire a college intern to coordinate youth-focused activities and outreach.
"We want the young adult to be a role model who can relate to teens," said agency President and CEO Kristine Hazzard. "We also want to get a message to young men that they are impacted by teen pregnancy."
Hazzard noted the intern will work closely with Karen Cole, whose role as the Berkshire United Way coordinator of youth development was expanded last year through federal grants to manage the Face the Facts coalition.
The funding is part of a total of $240,000 in Women's Fund grant commitments announced this week for Berkshire, Franklin, Hamden and Hampshire counties.
"We have incredible partnerships with our grantees," said Elizabeth Barajas-Román, who joined the Women's Fund as its new CEO earlier this month. "By investing in these organizations, the Fund is deepening our impact and strengthening our reach.
In the first four years of the initiative, the countywide teen pregnancy rate has dropped 50 percent from 27.2 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 in 2009 to 12.9 births in 2012, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Statewide, the rate is 14 births per 1,000.
By 2020, the coalition hopes the 2012 figure can be reduced by another 50 percent.
The group of more than 60 concerned Berkshire citizens has had initial success by raising public awareness of teen pregnancy and holding community conversations about sexual health and youth pregnancy, according to Berkshire United Way officials.
The coalition also advocates for comprehensive sexual health education in schools and enhancing access to, and improving the quality of, reproductive health services.
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