NEW YORK (FOXNews) — The Department of Education is giving morning-after pills and other birth-control drugs to students at 13 high schools, The Post has learned.
School nurse offices stocked with the contraceptives can dispense “Plan B” emergency contraception and other oral or injectable birth control to girls without telling their parents — unless parents opt out after getting a school informational letter about the new program.
CATCH — Connecting Adolescents To Comprehensive Health — is part of a citywide attack against the epidemic of teen pregnancy, which spurs many girls — most of them poor — to drop out of school.
While Big Apple high schools have long supplied free condoms to sexually active teens, this is the first time city schools have dispensed hormonal birth control and Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy if taken up to 72 hours after unprotected sex.
It might be a nationwide first as well. The National Association of School Nurses could cite no other school district supplying Plan B.
So far, during an unpublicized pilot program in five city schools last year, 567 students received Plan B tablets and 580 students received Reclipsen birth-control pills, the city Department of Health told The Post.
This fall, students can also get Depo-Provera, a birth-control drug injected once every three months, officials said.
Oral and injectable contraceptives require prescriptions, which, in the CATCH program, are written by Health Department doctors.
Plan B is typically sold as an over-the-counter medication, but those under age 18 need a prescription. For the CATCH program, students can tell a trained school nurse they had unprotected sex. The student will then get a test to see if she is already pregnant; if not, the prescription is issued and she can walk out with the pill.
The city expanded CATCH to 14 schools with more than 22,000 students over the past year. Officials dropped one, Seward Park Campus in lower Manhattan, because CATCH was overwhelming the medical office.
Parents at the 14 schools were sent letters informing them about CATCH. Parents may bar their kids from getting pregnancy tests or contraceptives if they sign and return an opt-out statement.
If they do not, schools can confidentially give the contraception without permission.
An average 1 to 2 percent of parents at each school have returned the opt-out sheets, said DOH spokeswoman Alexandra Waldhorn.