MEMPHIS, TN - The A Step Ahead Foundation has helped turn around the teen pregnancy numbers in Memphis and Shelby County.
"We have raised the conversation regarding life planning and contraception," says Claudia Haltom, CEO of A Step Ahead Foundation.
It is one of a group of community organizations that have come together to tackle teen pregnancy by giving teens options so they don't get pregnant in the first place. They offer other effective methods of birth control instead of the pill.
"Some of the things we have been able to do is get clinics to stock the most effective methods on their shelves. So if it is stocked on the shelf, they can offer it to a young woman," says Haltom. "They are 99 percent effect. The implant that goes in the arm and lasts up to 3 years. They are several kinds of IUDs inserted by doctors. "
TN Care now covers the cost of some devices and A Step Ahead helps with the costs as well and transportation to appointments.
Since it started in 2011, A Step Ahead had helped more than 57-hundred women of all incomes and has given out half a million dollars in scholarships so women can focus on finishing their education instead of worrying about unwanted pregnancies.
Brianna Willis is one of those who got help. For her, the choice was an implant that lasts for 3 years.
"When it came to taking birth control, pills were not the best option for me. But I knew I wanted to protect myself so I didn't have any unwanted or unplanned pregnancies," says Willis.
"We encourage and empower young families to have this conversation and talk about what their life plan is," says Haltom.
The latest stats showing Memphis teen pregnancy rate down 50-percent don't surprise those at A Step Ahead.
They know speaking at community events, making it easier for women to get more effective forms of birth control and working with other agencies like Girls Inc., Agape and Lebonheur have and will continue to make a difference.
"When they understand the consequences and the changes that are available for their lives, when they have their children later, I think more and more will make the choice to have their children later in life," says Haltom.
The latest numbers show pregnancies among 18 to 19 year olds in Shelby County dropped from 1,601 in 2011 to 930 in 2016.
Now other cities around the state have started A Step Ahead programs to help with their teen pregnancy rates.