A Step Ahead Foundation Expands to East Tennessee To Provide Women With Access to Long Acting, Reversible Contraceptives

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A Step Ahead Foundation of East Tennessee (ASAFET) provides the women of Knoxville with access to free long acting, reversible contraception (LARC), the most effective reversible method of birth control.

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A Step Ahead Foundation of East Tennessee (ASAFET) provides the women of Knoxville with the opportunity to choose if and when she will have a baby and under what circumstances by providing access to free long acting, reversible contraception (LARC), the most effective reversible method of birth control.

“Launched in Memphis, A Step Ahead provides free long-acting reversible birth control (LARC) and transportation to any woman requesting this option regardless of means or ability to pay. A Step Ahead is a prevention-focused organization that assists women in obtaining access to contraception,” said ASAFET Board Member Nikki Zite, MD. "Long acting reversible contraception has been shown to decrease the undesired pregnancy rate in several cities throughout the United States when barriers to access were reduced. Overall, planned pregnancies are healthier and we are hopeful that with less unplanned pregnancies in East Tennessee we can reduce the rate of many preventable forms of infant and maternal morbidity including preterm birth and Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome."

The National Health Statistics reports that unintended births are at elevated risk of adverse social, economic, and health outcomes for the mother and the child. ASAFET aims to improve educational, economic, and health outcomes for women and children in East Tennessee by providing access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) including "Well Woman" testing and transportation. ASAFET has 3 main programs that are working to serve the vulnerable throughout our community: Graduate First, Breaking Barriers and Empowering Women at Risk & Reducing N.A.S.

“The diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome doesn’t imply and shouldn’t be taken to indicate that an affected newborn’s future risks have been resolved upon discharge from the newborn nursery,” explains Neil Feld, M.D., Tots & Teens Pediatrics and A Step Ahead Board Member. “There are subtle and not so subtle concerns and indicators of developmental, behavioral, psychological and social fragility that could, potentially, place tremendous strain on families and communities economically, academically, and socially. Those stressors will have a domino effect on available and stressed resources to accommodate and require tremendous investments in time, money and school and community based personnel to address.”

Unintended pregnancy doesn’t just take a physical and financial toll on a woman, it also has emotional consequences. “Women who did not plan to become pregnant often describe difficult adjustment to this significant life change. This difficult adjustment to the pregnancy can impact their relationships and family functioning, make it more difficult to prepare for a baby, and can increase their risk for substance misuse, mood concerns during pregnancy, and postpartum depression. Some feel so inadequate they may choose to terminate a pregnancy they would have otherwise continued,” explains Psychologist, Brittany Tenbarge PHD, A Step Ahead Board Member. “There are findings that indicate untreated postpartum depression increase the likelihood of children experiencing emotional instability, conduct problems, and need for future behavioral health services.”

“A Step Ahead would save Tennessee more than $9,000 per woman who elects to use a LARC, in a single year, primarily due to TennCare savings. That is potentially $43 million per year,” advises ASAFET Treasurer Pat Conry Taylor, CPA and wealth manager. “When a pregnancy is delayed and education goals are obtained, there is a direct impact on the economy from increased sales tax collected through spending to reduced reliance on government benefits.”

A Step Ahead Foundation of East Tennessee hopes to improve educational, economic, and health outcomes for women and children in East Tennessee. They aim to do this by providing access to effective family planning education and access to long-acting reversible contraception (LARC) including "Well Woman" testing and transportation if required. They hope to increase positive pregnancy outcomes for both the mother and the child, lower infant mortality, improve family life and decrease Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). They provide a means for women to plan each child and every step of her life through education and long-acting reversible contraception (LARC).

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Wendi Mullins