Darlington County First Steps & Fact Forward Partner to Promote Reproductive Health Service Access

In a new project funded by the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare as a part of the state’s rural health initiative, Darlington County First Steps (DCFS) and Fact Forward are partnering to address Darlington County’s STI and unintended birth rates for 15–24-year-olds.

"Fact Forward is excited to receive this funding opportunity from the Center for Primary and Rural Healthcare," Doug Taylor, Fact Forward Director of Community Programs and Evaluation, said. "The Community Accessing Education and Success (CARES) initiative will allow us to partner with DCFS to pilot an innovative public health initiative to address unintended pregnancies and STIs among adolescents."

The Project
The goal of this collaboration is to strengthen and leverage existing community partnerships to pilot the innovative Communities Accessing Resources and Education for Success (CARES) project. CARES equips DCFS’s Community Health Manager (CHM) to use technology-based, proven resources to identify needs and increase access to sexual and reproductive health care services (SRHS) for adolescents. Access to these services is a significant barrier for adolescents in rural communities. CARES provides easy access to a supportive, trusted adult who will use standardized, validated assessment and coaching tools to identify SRHS needs, provide risk reduction coaching and assist in assuring referrals to local resources in Darlington County. This virtual model aims to eliminate a common barrier to service delivery in Darlington County, lack of transportation, while providing flexibility on when and where the young person engages with the CHM.

Why Darlington County?
Darlington County’s STI and unintended birth rates for 15–24-year-olds are consistently above the state rates. In 2019, Darlington County had a birth rate of 66.6 per 1,000 for females ages 15-24 compared to the state’s birth rate of 50.2. Additionally, there continues to be a disparity in rates by race. The Black, non-Hispanic (NH) birth rate in Darlington County, remained higher than all other races since 2002. In 2019, the rate was 78.7 compared to 55.8 for White NH adolescents. Darlington County’s STI rates (Chlamydia & Gonorrhea) for 15–24-year-olds remain higher than the state rates. Overall, Darlington has the 13th and 12th highest Chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates in SC, respectively.

"We prioritize the health and well-being of all community members and are grateful to the South Carolina Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare and Fact Forward for extending their resources to Darlington County," Darnell Byrd McPherson, Executive Director of DCFS, said. "We will continue putting forth our best efforts to impact young people and improve health outcomes in the communities we serve."

For more information about the Communities Accessing Resources and Education for Success (CARES) project, contact Patricia Sullivan at 843-339-0819 or

About Darlington County First Steps:

Darlington County First Steps is a county partnership of South Carolina First Steps serving Darlington, Hartsville, Lamar and Society Hill communities. We strive to ensure the most efficient resources and information are available to equip families and engage communities. We offer several program services that focus on health, early education, school transitioning, and parenting.