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December 27, 2000
Contact: Micah Swafford

Oklahomans Applaud Expansion of Abstinence Programs

Oklahoma City, OK -  Today, Fifth District Congressman Ernest Istook and Oklahoma Health and Human Services Cabinet Secretary and Acting Director of the Oklahoma State Department of Health Jerry Regier applauded the first-ever expansion of federal programs promoting abstinence among teens. With six programs covering 21 counties, Oklahoma is one of the leaders in abstinence education in the country.  Last year, the Oklahoma State Department of Health received nearly $1million in federal grants to promote abstinence education for teens.

Istook has succeeded in a personal effort to secure a major increase in funds to promote teen abstinence.  The 40 percent increase is the first increase since Congress began abstinence programs in 1995.  That funding increase was signed into law last week.

“Abstinence is the only sure way to prevent disease and pregnancy, and to avoid teen pregnancies which start a vicious cycle of poverty, welfare, school drop-outs and other problems,” said Istook.  “In the last 25 years, the federal government has devoted hundreds of millions of dollars to give contraceptives to teens, and sexually-transmitted diseases have only increased.  Teens need to hear a clear message that abstinence is the right thing, and the only sure way to protect themselves.”

“Oklahoma’s abstinence education projects are community-based, and medically accurate. These projects provide skills and education to parents in a manner that reinforces them as the primary educator of family values,” said Regier.

Paul Wesselhoft, State Program Director for the Abstinence Project said, “We currently have teachers and parents requesting that abstinence education be taught in their school.  Surrounding counties that don’t have existing projects are also requesting presentations for their schools. Abstinence education is becoming popular and in demand.”

Mike Jestes, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Family Policy Council said, “The K.E.E.P. (Kids Eagerly Endorsing Abstinence) Program is an 8-12 week program targeting 14-to 18-year-old teens. We are currently in Oklahoma County in 12 area schools teaching several thousands of children a week.” The K.E.E.P. Program involves a pre-and post-test that measures attitudinal changes. “With those students involved in the pre-and post-test evaluations, 86 percent of the students receiving the abstinence training indicate that the course provides them with a ‘great deal’ of information they can use in decision-making for future choices regarding sexual health,” Jestes said.

A special training seminar is scheduled for Jan. 4 – 5, 2001,  for those interested in becoming volunteer abstinence trainers.  Seminar speakers will include national author of Project Reality curriculum Jim Coughlyn, and Mike Worley, a national speaker and director of the abstinence-clearinghouse “Friends First.” For more information or to attend the training, call the Oklahoma Family Policy Council at 405-787-7744.

With the increase in availability of federal funds, the next deadline for applications for abstinence education grants is February 2, 2001.  The grant money will be issued in March 2001.  Interested parties can download applications at www.mchb.hrsa.gov.


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