Teen birth rates drop in Tri-Cities, remain above state average

Teen birth rates drop in Tri-Cities, remain above state average

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- Fewer teenagers are having babies in the Tri-Cities. Despite that fact, the numbers are still higher than the state average.

Action News found out how our health leaders are taking new action to reduce these rates in the community by focusing in a new direction.

As just a senior in high school, Andrea Riggs went from being a teenager to becoming a mother.

"It was difficult, it was a struggle,” said Riggs, adding “I did the best that I could but I definitely faced challenges."

However, it's those difficult times of balancing classes and caring for her very own child that gave Riggs a bigger purpose.

“It sparked a passion to want to help prevent others facing that same situation," she said.

Now the executive director at Tri-Cities Pregnancy Network, Riggs is working to decrease the rates of teen pregnancy in Washington.

According to Washington Department of Health, in 2015 there were 36 births per one thousand girls in Franklin County. Less than five years ago that number was almost double.

Experts at Benton-Franklin Health District say it's definitely a start, but that's still more than twice the state average.

"We definitely can't think that the job is done and we're in the clear just because the numbers are down," said Benton-Franklin Health District’s Vanessa McCollum.

The Tri-Cities Pregnancy Network center is working on increasing school visits. In the last three months it has also started a program working with kids in the juvenile detention center.

"It's amazing to me how some of the at-risk boys in our community, they are desperate to talk about sex," said Tri-Cities Pregnancy Network’s Fatherhood Coordinator Brandon Gregory.

Through targeting boys and not just the girls, the pregnancy network is hoping to turn this trend around.

"I mean it takes two to make a baby and I think a lot of times fathers feel lefts out of the equation," said Gregory.

May is national teen pregnancy prevention month. However, year-round there are free pregnancy tests and programs for teens at the Tri-Cities pregnancy network.

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