By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – A group that specializes in teaching teachers about sex education and preventing teen pregnancy will cease operation at the end of the year after losing Federal funding.
“I think it’s going to be significant,” said Andrea Miller the Executive Director of Colorado Youth Matter about the closure’s impact. “We are statewide. We’ve taught teachers in Grand Junction and Durango and the Eastern Plains and a lot of work here on the Front Range.”
Colorado Youth Matter specializes in teaching school staff how to effectively communicate with teens.
“It’s really focusing on the whole child and the mental, emotional, social piece that our students really need,” said Kellie Cassity, a PE and Health teacher at North High School in Denver.
At times CYM has helped as many as 25 Colorado school districts in a given year with training sessions.
“We talk about those things in very medically accurate way but it’s also relationship based. We talk about consent, asking for consent, giving consent, those kind of things to create a healthy relationship. We also talk to teachers about how to answer difficult questions. Whether it’s something a student has read on the internet or something that is very values-based, like when is it the right time to have sex,” Miller said.
However, CYM has a budget largely based on grants and the non-profit lost three in 2017 including $750,000 that makes up about 75 percent of the yearly expenditures.
“The Health and Human Services Department removed the teen pregnancy prevention funding from the budget before they proposed it to the House of Representatives Committee, so it was removed from the get-go,” Miller said.
Miller says the new administration in charge at HHS “believe the project is ineffective.”
Without funding CYM is hoping it can help its staff get hired at other areas.
“We have a talented staff that knows a lot about youth sexual health and knows how to work with youth in a very inclusive manner. And we want to make sure that continues,” Miller said.
Denver Public Schools is also looking for a new solution moving forward, with a way to train health teachers and other district staff.
“It gives us the tools to help support our students in the classroom. We are on the front lines and the students need the help from the teachers. This is a human impact, this impacts our community, this impacts our state, our whole entire country,” Cassity said.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.