Reproductive clinic in the works at Dunkirk

Between a high teen pregnancy rate and growing STD cases, Chautauqua County Health officials and the Dunkirk City School District are looking to bring a reproductive health clinic to the high school to support students’ health.

Mike Green, Dunkirk school teacher, Kelly Mancuso, high school nurse, and Kelly Whitver, county public health nurse, came before the board of education recently to discuss how a clinic could be beneficial to students. Green noted that STDs are on the rise, and Dunkirk, Jamestown and Fredonia schools make up 70.9 percent of those cases. As for teen pregnancy rates of 88.4 per 1,000 females over a three-year period, Green said it’s a high number.

“If you compare our rates to the rest of communities in our county, you can see we’re much higher than the others,” Green said.

A reproductive health services survey conducted last year found that 762 students in the district would likely use a clinic if it came available. A total of 658 respondents further expressed that they’d utilize reproductive health services during after school hours.

“I thought that was pretty significant that our students are reaching out for this type of service,” Green said.

Two years ago, a decision was made at the county level to shut down health clinics in Dunkirk and Jamestown. It was due to the coming of The Chautauqua Center, a federally-funded, comprehensive patient-centered health service provider.

While reproductive health services are provided at its location on Central Avenue in the city, Whitver said it isn’t a reproductive health clinic where young men and women can go.

The county still runs a health clinic in Mayville, but it can be a trek for those in the city.

“We help men and women of reproductive age with confidential STD testing, with birth control and talking about methods,” Whitver said. “In addition to that, a lot of what we do is education and we try to have a very open clinic, meaning open, warm and fuzzy. There’s no judgment in what they’re doing and where they’re doing it.”

As to the benefit of a clinic, Mancuso said it can help point students in the right direction to succeed while guiding them through some difficult decisions and places they have to be. Mancuso noted that five students within the district either became pregnant or delivered during the school year.

“I feel strongly that this opportunity is one that will better the overall and health being of our students,” Mancuso said.

A reproductive health clinic won’t need funds from the district. Only space would need to be provided within the high school.

Dunkirk Schools’ Superintendent Dr. James Tracy said the hope is to have a clinic up and running sometime this school year. When that would be is still unknown, but the intent is to have one available for students during after school hours.

County health and school district officials are set to meet next week for further discussion. Tracy said a clinic will afford the opportunity for students to gain information and get tested.

“Nothing like that is available (at the school) currently,” he said. “We’re not sure if we’ll have it once a week or once a month. We’ll know more (this) week.”