CenCal Health, the community-accountable health plan on the Central Coast, is funding the expansion of critical resources for expectant and parenting teens in Santa Barbara County.
The $200,000 contribution to CommUnify will allow its teen pregnancy support program to roughly double in size.
The funding will increase the number of participants from 30-plus to approximately 60 during the program year. This expansion will also help to open up the program’s geographic range beyond Santa Maria to serve residents across Santa Barbara County, including Lompoc and other communities south of Santa Maria.
CommUnify’s Adolescent Family Life Planning program provides case management support for expectant and young parents, primarily mothers aged 12 to 21. The AFLP program seeks to increase social and emotional support and build resiliency, while helping young parents achieve a healthy pregnancy and learn positive parenting skills.
In addition, the AFLP program supports young parents in setting goals, completing their high school education, setting career objectives and gaining access to needed community resources. AFLP is one of 17 social service programs that CommUnify provides in Santa Barbara County. Established in 1967, the nonprofit is marking its 55th year of service to the community.
“Partnering with CommUnify to support the AFLP program is a well-founded extension of our mission to improve the health and wellness of our diverse communities and advance health equity,” said Marina Owen, CenCal Health CEO. “Helping moms improve their life skills for successful parenting not only benefits children and families but entire communities as well.”
The additional funding from CenCal Health will also enhance the AFLP program’s “wraparound” behavioral wellness support by providing trauma-informed, evidence-based clinical therapeutic services for parents and children.
The most recent data reported by the California Department of Public Health revealed that Santa Barbara County has the 15th highest teen birth rate in the state, at 18 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19, as compared to California at a rate of 13.9 teen births, The birth rate among Hispanic teens in Santa Barbara County is 29.5 births per 1,000 females.
While teen birth rates are steadily dropping across the state and in Santa Barbara, young parents — particularly those in at-risk environments or victims of trauma — need support to create a healthy life for themselves and their children, according to a news release from CenCal Health.
Of the clients referred to the AFLP program, many have been the victims of sexual abuse, rape and sex trafficking.
CenCal Health noted that nearly all of these young mothers are low- to extremely-low income, 98% are Medi-Cal eligible, and more than 90% are single mothers. Moreover, the impact of stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly on mental health, has contributed further to the incidence of depression symptoms in young mothers.
The funding from CenCal Health will specifically allow for
— Case managers to assess each current and new AFLP client for mental health needs and refer approximately 30% of clients to behavioral wellness services.
— A total of 30 expectant and parenting mothers to participate in positive youth development, parenting education and case management.
— Case managers to support and track a mother’s recommended postpartum visit schedule and provide and track referrals for needs identified, including needs for mental health services.
Funding will be provided in two installments over an estimated 12-month period. This month CommUnify was presented with an initial $100,000.
“CenCal Health has consistently responded to the needs of our agency’s clients and our programs that serve the local high-need population,” said Pat Keelean, CommUnify CEO. “We are grateful for this vital funding that will substantially improve both the present and future of teen parents and their children in Santa Barbara County.”