The township began work on the condom distribution policy after the Oak Park Department of Health HIV Task Force suggested it as a method of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The proposal states that the policy is also needed because, unlike teens with eating disorders and substance abuse problems who have a number of out-patient support programs to choose from, those who are "promiscuous and have unprotected sex do not have comparable services at their disposal."
The current draft, which the township will be taking to several taxing bodies in Oak Park before approving, lists several specific conditions that teens would have to meet before being handed a condom. The participant in the interventionist program must be at least 14 years old, have spoken to a youth interventionist about being "sexually active without condom protection" and have received material informing the teen that abstinence is the only 100-percent effective way to eliminate the risk of contracting an STD.
John Williams, director of Oak Park Township Youth Services, said condoms have never been distributed before to teens as part of the interventionist program, and though the topic is a sensitive one, the new policy could help reduce the negative consequences of unprotected sexual activity.
"Any time you have an issue like this, people have a lot of strong feelings about it," he said. "If the individual interventionist felt that it would increase the likelihood of safe sex practices, they could [distribute condoms]. We're working on what's the best thing for our kids, and we'll see where it goes from there."
The Township Youth Interventionist program began as a preventive measure against gang and drug activity among local youth identified as "at risk." The program is funded by a consortium of local taxing bodies, including those in River Forest.
Williams said that at any given time, at least half of the participants in the interventionist program are at least 14 years old, making them potentially eligible to receive a condom.
Although parents will be warned in a general way upon entering the program that their children could be given condoms, Township Trustee David Boulanger said parents would still have the ability to prevent interventionists from handing them out to their teenager.
"A parent may say, 'I don't want you to do that,' and the interventionist would respect that parent's wishes," he said.