MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Funding to prevent teen pregnancy in Shelby County is in jeopardy after Le Bonheur Children's Hospital said the Trump administration is cutting a federal gr ant two years early.
Officials with Le Bonheur filled the Shelby County Commission committee room Wednesday in a show of solidarity, saying they were shocked to learn the gr ant was being cut.
"We don't really understand why we were cut in advance," said Lauren McCann, Director of Community Programs, with Le Bonheur Community Health and Wellbeing.
The Department of Health and Human Services, under the Trump administration, sliced $213 million in pregnancy prevention programs across the country.
The move was first exposed by the Center for Investigative Reporting back in July.
"We focus on the ability to make proud and responsible choices to delay sexual encounters and protect yourself when sexual encounters happen," McCann said.
Le Bonheur's gr ant-funded program in Memphis is called "Be Proud! Be Responsible."
The hospital works alongside Shelby County Schools, charter schools, and even juvenile detention to educate teens about sexual health, including information about abstinence and contraception.
The first five-year gr ant was awarded in 2010, and hospital officials said federal officials lauded Memphis's success with the program when they renewed the $1.2 million-a-year gr ant until 2020.
County stats provided by Le Bonheur show the teen birth rate d ropped from 53.7 percent in 2010 to 38.6 percent in 2015.
"It is a sin to cut these funds," said County Commissioner Reginald Milton. "It is nothing short of a sin."
Milton and others vowed they'd work to contact federal lawmakers to voice their displeasure, even writing letters or traveling to Washington, D.C. if need be, resolving they would find a solution.
"This is not right for us," said County Commissioner Mark Billingsley. "This is going to hurt citizens in Shelby County."
Meanwhile, Le Bonheur officials said they've started their own fundraising campaign with community partners to come up with the almost $2.5 million to keep the program running until 2020.