The program, called CATCH, or Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Healthcare, is aimed at reducing unplanned teen pregnancy. It began in January 2011, but wasn't publicized until the New York Post reported it over the weekend.
"In any given every year there are about 7,000 pregnancies to girls ages 15 to 17 in New York City, about 90 percent of those are unintended," said Deborah Kaplan, assistant commissioner at the city health department's Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health. "We wanted to make sure young people who are sexually active have easy access to contraceptive services and general reproductive health services."
Oral contraceptives, including the morning-after Plan B pill, have been available to students at most of the 40 schools that have school-based health centers for the last one to four years, depending on the school, Kaplan said. The centers, which serve about one-quarter of New York City's public high school students, provide primary care health services and are run privately by separate institutions like hospitals.
For the first time, with the CATCH program, the Health Department is making the contraceptives available in schools without the private health centers. The program began in January 2011 in five schools, and is now in 13 schools. The schools were chosen because they are in neighborhoods with high teen pregnancy rates or with limited resources for young people to get contraception. City high schools have long provided condoms.
Image: Girl with nurse, via Shutterstock