Health expert: STD problem 'nearly reached point of crisis' among teens in Franklin County

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Expert Warns of County's STD Cases Reaching 'Crisis' Point

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (WPMT) -- Members of the community in Franklin County are scrambling for a solution because of a drastic number of STD cases, especially among young adults and teenagers.

"The kids of Chambersburg are learning about STDs when they get one," said Joanne Cochran, President of Keystone Health in Chambersburg. She said the STD problem has nearly reached the point of crisis among teens. "I think we have a responsibility as adults to protect our kids."

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"This is something that is really growing across the country. Our problem happens to be a particularly bad problem," said Keystone Health Family Planning and STD Services Director, Diane Morrow. She said the Department of Health approached them after seeing the number of STD cases on the rise in Franklin County. The organization received funding to hold a number of testing clinics over the past year and a half. "We realized the problem was worse than we thought," said Morrow of their results. In 2015 18% of people tested in their clinic had an STD, which is well-above the state average of 10%. Even worse, more than half were under the age of 25.

A majority tested positive for Chlamydia. This is concerning, Morrow said, because it can go undetected, and lead to serious health problems. "We don't want to see somebody who is 18 years old, and be infected with Chlamydia and not know it. And then have infertility problems for the rest of their life," said Morrow.

Focus

Now the focus is on fighting the problem.

"I think they should be educated, Sex-Ed is very important and especially about STDs," said Chambersburg parent Betsy Correa.

This is where Cochran said they are hoping to start, with the sex education program at the Chambersburg School District. "There was some concern from the school nurses, they felt uncomfortable teaching the children about sex," said Cochran. "We actually gave them a course in sexually transmitted disease and Chlamydia. We talked to them about how to educate children."

Keystone Health also provides testing free of charge. For more information click here.

Statement from Superintendent Regarding STDs

Chambersburg School District Superintendent Dr. Joseph Padasak released a statement about the issue.

"The Chambersburg Area School District CASD) has a very limited health curriculum that addresses sexual health," said Dr. Joseph Padasak, Superintendent.

"Children 'get the sex talk' in fifth grade and they learn about growth and development in eighth-grade health," Padasak said. "There is a popular Child Development course at our high school in the family and consumer science area that has units on STDs and pregnancy."

"CASD is among 15 school districts in Pennsylvania chosen three years ago to participate in the CDC grant program 1308 DASH, the goal of which is to improve sexual health and reduce the risk of teen pregnancy," Padasak noted.

"CASD likely was chosen for the program because of its high poverty level. Also, half the children in the school district live in single-family households. The DASH grant is to help us get professional development for our teachers and substitute teaches. We were awarded $23,000 to be used over a five-year period and we are in year three of this program," Padasak explained.

"It is very important for us to look at where our sex education is and to determine what is needed to improve in this area to slow down the rate of STDs and increase student awareness about the consequences of their actions. A school board presentation is being developed," Padasak said. "It's a serious concern."

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