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N.H. congressional delegation, Charitable Foundation offer support to defunded sex education program

New Hampshire's congressional delegation and the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation are stepping in to support a sex education program at risk of closing, after the state’s Executive Council blocked funding for it in late November.

The initiative - called the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) - offers after-school sex education programs in the areas of the state with the highest rates of teen pregnancy: Manchester and Claremont. Two health centers - Amoskeag Health in Manchester and TLC Family Resource Center in Claremont - have run the program for nearly a decade.

A new round of federal funding would have continued PREP for another three years, but Republicans on the Executive Council rejected the $682,074 grant, citing concerns about the curriculum and the level of parental oversight.

In a letter sent Thursday, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan and Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas - all Democrats - asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fund the programs directly.

Such a move to bypass the Executive Council is rare but not unprecedented. A spokesperson for Shaheen’s office noted two examples - one in 2011 and another in 2021 - when the senator helped get federal grants to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England after the Executive Council voted down federal funding for it.

The Executive Council’s vote to reject funding for the program last week came after tabling it for two months.

Betsy Burtis, the chief officer for integrated health services at Amoskeag Health, says the delay in funding kept them from offering the sex education program this fall. Amoskeag Health had planned to expand it after recruiting more community partners this year. She says it will begin offering the program with support from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation.

A spokesperson for the Charitable Foundation said the $30,000 grant is only going to Amoskeag Health in Manchester and is intended as stop gap funding as the center looks for longer-term funding.

TLC Family Resource Center, which offers the sex ed program in Claremont, did not reply in time for publication about whether it had secured any temporary grants.

It is unclear how long it could take the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to decide on funding and send money to the two health centers administering the program.