A state task force report released Monday criticized New Hampshire's media-focused abstinence campaign as ineffective and detailed a new approach to promoting abstinence among sexually active youths. New Hampshire has received $545,637 in federal abstinence funds since 1997, when such funds were first authorized by federal legislation, but has little to show for it, the report said. The task force--put together by Health and Human Services commissioner John Stephen--recommended spending about $60,000 on advertising and $37,000 on grants for groups that teach the skills youths need to avoid sex. The state has counted "in kind" spending on state employee, media, and contractor time rather than, as it is supposed to, matching every $4 in federal spending with $3 in state funds.
Teen pregnancy rates are dropping in New Hampshire, but the state has seen sexually transmitted diseases increase, particularly among youths. Jennifer Frizzell, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said that while encouraging abstinence is appropriate, "it's irresponsible to not couple that with the kinds of information about contraceptives and condoms that could prevent unintended pregnancy or prevent [STDs]."
Strict federal guidelines determine how the money can be spent, said Brook Dupee, manager of the abstinence-only program for Stephen. "It cannot be something that mixes comprehensive sex education with abstinence-only education," he said. Groups competing for the grants--such as pregnancy crisis centers and churches--would have to have curricula approved by the health department. State guidelines prohibit the programs from promoting religion, Dupee said. (AP)