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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
NEW YORK: Dropping In: Fulton Program Brings Counsel to Teens, Young Adults on Sexual Health Issues
Michael D. Perkins
December 7, 2011
Post-Standard (Syracuse) (12.01.11) - Wednesday, December 07,

Open since October, a new drop-in facility at the Fulton Health Center is helping fill a gap in STD and pregnancy prevention programming among teens in Oswego County. It serves 13- to 24-year-olds and is run by the nonprofit agency Oswego County Opportunities (OCO).

The new service came about after an area survey showed a lack of sexual health counseling and education options. OCO requested funding from the state Department of Health to open the center, run collaboratively by the agency, YMCA, and the Fulton City School District.

"The goal is to get people in, get them educated, counseled or to get them long-term help," said Ellen Lazarek, collaboration manager for OCO. The drop-in center is staffed by health educators, providers, and trained teen peer volunteers - something Lazarek believes is vital. "Having peers relay information is more engaging and they retain it better than if it were to come from an adult," she said.

Cheryl Perkins, a health educator for the city school district, agrees. "Kids are much more apt to listen to [fellow] youths, and it's important that they have the right information," said Perkins, who trains the center's 50 or so peer volunteers.

The Oswego County Health Department sees too many "teen moms with a knowledge deficit," said supervising public health nurse Judy Lester. OCHD handles referrals for pregnancy- related counseling and information. From 2006 to 2008, 3.1 percent of births in the county were among females ages 10-17.