Many Payson teens are becoming addicted to drugs or are pregnant, and though not necessarily related, resources are available for prevention or help if trouble strikes.
A breakout of teenagers taking prescription pills this year worried local authorities.
Most of the problems occur with middle schoolers, Payson Police Chief Don Engler has said.
More teens abuse prescription drugs than methamphetamines, cocaine and heroin combined, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Law enforcement officials emphasize that parents should lock up their pills so kids don’t have access.
According to the 2008 Arizona Youth Survey, the number of high school seniors in Gila County who reported using methamphetamines in the past month was roughly 2 percent.
However, some say those figures severely underestimate the problem because teens don’t always tell the truth, and those afflicted with addiction tend to be difficult to find, and consequently, to survey.
Meth is more prevalent in small towns. Children aged 12 to 14 are 104 percent more likely to use methamphetamine than those who live in larger cities, according to the Gila County Meth Coalition.
For treatment options, the Meth Coalition advises that people contact Southwest Behavioral Health Services Rim Guidance at (928) 474-3303, or Payson Regional Medical Center at (928) 474-3222.
In 2007, teenage moms accounted for 15 percent of all births in Payson, according to the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services. And although the same number of students had sex from 2003 to 2007, fewer are using protection, according to the Arizona Youth Risk Behavior Survey.
Several resources are available.
Through the county public health nurse and New Beginnings Pregnancy Center, which promotes abstinence and is faith-based, teens can receive information.
Lucinda Campbell, a public health nurse with the Gila County Division of Health and Community Services in Payson, offers information and testing for both sexually for teens over 15.
Through a well baby program, moms of certain income levels can bring their children in every two months for shots and checkups to ensure the child is developing correctly.
New Beginnings Pregnancy Center has a sexual integrity program, which allows teenagers to go with or without their parents and learn about the consequences of early sexual involvement.
At the center, expectant mothers can earn “mommy money” for diapers, strollers, or baby clothes, which people have donated. File cabinets store information on everything from relieving morning sickness, to babies and the law.
Teens can also earn fake money for completing lessons through the sexual integrity program. Instead of diapers, girls can earn certificates for manicures or for movie tickets. Information is available about STDs and “the truth about birth control,” which Director Michele DeRouin said is that it doesn’t always work.
DeRouin said her average client is between 17 and 19 years old. Campbell said she sees mainly seniors in high school.
The best age to talk with kids about sex is in the fifth grade, DeRouin said, because parents hold more sway with younger children. As kids enter adolescence, they listen to their peers more, she said.
Campbell said empowerment is important. In Payson, she said kids do a, “I’ll tell everyone you have herpes,” if one is mad at the other.
“If you’re friend is telling you (that) you have herpes, they’re not much of a friend,” Campbell says she tells them.
Yet, she says, “we’ve got a generation of savvy parents” — parents who are bringing their kids in to see Campbell for information.
Both DeRouin and Campbell say information is key in prevention.