During its annual legislative breakfast, the nonprofit organization asked lawmakers to expand family planning services, maintain funding for Regional Perinatal Centers, study current state program offerings and support improvement of state student databases.
"One of the things we're looking for is a commitment from everyone," said Dr. Charles Jackson, a professor at Augusta State University and member of the APC board of directors. "Our concern is to get our young folks off to a healthy start."
The partnership also wants the community to address issues such as comprehensive sex education programs, childhood obesity, underage drinking, parental involvement, student test-taking skills and unsupervised suspended students.
The most pressing issues are whittled down from a larger list that APC members vote on, said Dr. Robetta McKenzie, executive director for the partnership.
She said the recommendations are intended to give legislators a starting point, and the partnership will follow up with government officials throughout the year.
State Rep. Henry Wayne Howard, D-Augusta, said the community must keep the dialogue going past the annual event.
"I think you're giving us some ammunition to go back to Atlanta with," he said.
With the state slashing budgets, Dr. McKenzie said it's important for groups to collaborate and pool resources.
State Sen. Edward Tarver, a Democrat, said changes are needed, but economic times are harsh.
"The reality is there are going to be fewer resources, not more," he said. "Many of those programs being cut probably won't come back."
Rep. Quincy Murphy, D-Augusta, also spoke at the breakfast. U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., and U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., sent representatives.
Specific recommendations for legislators were:
- Pursue a waiver to expand family planning services to women for two years after delivery and possibly men in an effort to improve birth outcomes, reduce repeat unintended pregnancies, increase interconception spacing and improve the well-being of children and families.
- Maintain funding for the Regional Perinatal Centers to ensure an accessible and appropriate high-risk perinatal and neonatal health care system for high-risk infants and women stays in place.
- Commission a study of current state-administered or funded after-school and summer programs and scrutinize the criteria used to award money to community agencies and school systems to make sure they are high quality.
- Provide resources and monitor the state Board of Education's efforts to implement a longitudinal student database that will improve education record-keeping.
Reach Erin Zureick at (706) 823-3217 or firstname.lastname@example.org.