Marion is fortunate to have many thriving social service organizations. Marion Adolescent Pregnancy Program (MAPP) is proud to be MarionMade! and serving the community for over 40 years. Its founder, Dr. James Bazzoli, retired from the board of directors in January 2020, but this was his brainchild, and his knowledge and guidance over the years have been invaluable. Dr. Bazzoli always had the best interest of the community, especially these young mothers, at heart.
“Research began in 1978-79 to figure the rate of teen pregnancy in Marion County and what could be done to help those teen moms,” stated Jennifer Valentine, Executive Director. “The need for services became evident: in 1980, Marion had one of the highest pregnancy rates in the state of Ohio. Since that time, Marion’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped by over 65%. MAPP began as a project of the Mary Elizabeth Smith Foundation, and became incorporated in 1980.”
The program’s vision is straightforward: ‘An Investment in Futures’. “By reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies in the Marion area, the future for our citizens looks much brighter,” added Valentine.
Over the years, the program’s purpose has multiplied. In 1980, MAPP started by offering free, confidential pregnancy tests in the office for teen girls. Eventually, a community educator was hired to go into local schools to teach comprehensive sex education. MAPP still offers both of these services today, and counseling is available following pregnancy testing. In the late 1990s, MAPP obtained the Ohio Early Start grant for Marion County. Service coordinators were hired to provide home visits for families in this program. Early Start later evolved into what is now known as Help Me Grow.
MAPP teaches the Changes and Choices comprehensive sex education program in local middle and high schools. Early Intervention services are available for children ages 0-3 who have a developmental delay or a diagnosed medical condition that may lead to a delay. Service coordinators team with developmental specialists from the Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities to conduct developmental evaluations for the children to see if there are any delays. If needed, they link families with services (physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy) to help children meet their goals. Home Visiting works with families who have pregnant moms – children up through age 5, including conducting developmental screenings to ensure children are on track. In addition, home visitors provide parent education and family activities.
Starting with a small staff of just three, MAPP has grown over the years to a staff of 12, including Valentine. Lori Stidham is the assistant director, and Chris Haas is the finance director. There are five Help Me Grow home visitors and two early intervention service coordinators, and one each community educator and healthcare coordinator. The organization is overseen by a volunteer board of directors and the current board president is Tami Galloway.
MAPP has been recognized nationally, regionally, statewide, and locally for its forward-thinking and variety of services offered to teens. Serving as a model for the state of Ohio for the Help Me Grow program, MAPP was doing home visits for these young families in the early 1980s, long before Help Me Grow even existed. Today, this is the basis of the Help Me Grow Program.
MAPP receives generous support from the local Marion community as well as state and federal funding. For more information, visit them on Facebook.