New rules for teenagers at Concord Mills Mall are underway

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Anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a chaperone who is 21 or older starting Friday.

CONCORD, N.C. — Already underway are new rules for teenagers at Concord Mills Mall. Starting at 3 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a chaperone who is 21 or older.

“The reputation is not so good,” Concord resident, Catherine Sostre, said.

Sostre says it’s gotten to the point where she can’t come to the mall whenever she wants to.

“I don’t shop here during the night because I don’t feel safe, that’s really what it comes down to I don’t feel safe,” Sostre said.

To combat that, now on Fridays and Saturdays from 3 p.m. on, anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a parent or someone over 21.

The Youth Supervision Program comes after several incidents at Concord Mills involving teenagers.

“It’s a move in the right direction, positive direction, I believe if this policy is implemented properly it’s going to reduce if not eliminate the type of juvenile disorder we’ve been seeing,” Concord Police Department Deputy Chief Jimmy Hughes said.

There have recently been fights forcing the mall to close early and in 2019 the death of 13-year-old Aveanna Propst. She was struck by a stray bullet outside of Dave and Busters.

“It’s horrible how it’s escalated over the last, it’s almost become common practice,” Concord Mills Mall shopper Christopher Alberty said.

Now, it all comes down to the enforcement of the new policy. The Concord community hoping it will make a difference.

“The community and law enforcement coming together, that is what reduces crime,” Hughes said.

“Bring parents and children together instead of just dropping your kids off and just leaving them at the mall to take care of themselves,” Sostre said.

If you don’t have a guardian mall security will ask for proof of I.D. If you don’t have one or aren’t over 18 years old, you will be asked to leave and if you don’t that’s trespassing. The Concord police will get involved.

Contact Lexi Wilson at and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Concord Mills’ new program means kids under 18 need an adult after 3 p.m. on weekends

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The ‘Youth Supervisory Program’ says kids will need to be accompanied by an adult or parent aged 21 or older at that time.

CONCORD, N.C. — The owner of the Concord Mills shopping mall says new rules are coming into play at the end of the month for kids visiting in the afternoon on certain days.

Simon, the property management group that owns Concord Mills, says the new policy goes into effect July 30. The “Youth Supervisory Program” will mean that on Fridays and Saturdays, kids under 18 years old will need a parent or any adult aged 21 and up with them after 3 p.m. If they don’t have an adult with them, youth will need to leave the mall by 3 p.m. those days, or be joined by a parent or adult.

The company says acceptable proof of age may be required for either the youth or adult, which can include state-issued ID cards and driver’s licenses, a military ID, a school ID card, or a passport. Anyone who doesn’t have the proper ID or who doesn’t abide by the new policy will be asked to leave.

Additionally, one adult can accompany up to four youth guests, and the youth guests must remain with that adult at all times. Adults will be responsible for the actions of the youth they accompany.

Simon also said store employees under age 18 can continue to work within their store during Youth Supervisory Program hours. Mall employees under 18 need to adhere to the policy if their work shift ends during those hours.

A press contact for the mall said the program was developed in response to feedback from the community and community leaders. The new policy builds on the existing safety plan and is expected to help deter disruptive activity.

An official with the Concord Police Department also shared excitement about the new program that’ll go into effect July 30.

“We’re happy to see the latest development. We support the mall and their decision to enact this policy,” said Concord Police Department Deputy Chief Jimmy Hughes. “It is a move in the right direction. I believe this policy, if implemented properly, is going to reduce, if not eliminate, the types of juvenile disorder that we’ve been seeing there at the mall on the weekends.”

Hughes said where the mall is private property, it will be the agency that enforces the policy. He added that CPD will continue to support to mall.

“If someone doesn’t comply with the mall, and they don’t leave, that becomes a trespass,” Hughes explained. “Law enforcement may be called at that point and become involved. It has been a partnership working together with the mall.”

CPD is also encouraging the community to get involved with National Night Out, an annual nationwide event celebrated on the first Tuesday in August to promote community-police partnerships.

Equality Health Center considers the future as previous state contract ends

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Dalia Vidunas pauses when she thinks about what budget cuts to family planning funding mean for her small, longstanding practice in downtown Concord.

“Our doors are not going to close,” she said, reassuring herself from inside the repurposed 19th-century house that serves as the office for the Equality Health Center on Main Street. “What’s going to change, though, is the way we do service.”

When Gov. Chris Sununu signed the state budget on June 25, just blocks down the street from the nonprofit, family planning providers found themselves in limbo.

The two-year contracts with the state expired on June 30. The Equality Health Center received $78,400 from the state, a combination of federal and state funds to offset money lost from withdrawing from Title X funding after the Trump administration’s gag rule.

The Biden administration is working to reverse the gag rule and reinstate funding, but federal dollars likely won’t be available until the spring for providers rejoining the program.

In the meantime, there is a lapse of state funding with no contracts proposed yet and cuts to the pool of money for family planning providers. In 2019, the budget offered just over $1.5 million for contracts for program services. Now, that pool is $868,332.

A poster explaining the landmark Roe v. Wade decision decorates the wall above the stairs on the second-floor landing, a reminder of the federal right to an abortion. Despite Republican legislators’ attempt to defund these services, it won’t stop them from happening at the Equality Health Center.

Instead, it will force cuts to previously free services and staffing.

Making cuts

When free HIV testing was cut out of the state budget in 2012, Vidunas, the executive director who was newly hired at the time, found a solution. She implemented what she called an “STD special,” where patients could come to the clinic and receive a series of STD tests for $75.

It cost them $72 to run the tests, but the $3 profit and reassurance that people are knowledgeable about their sexual health was enough for Vidunas to run the program.

Ten years later, the price is up to $95, but that’s marginal compared to a hospital, where it can cost over $400 for these tests, according to Vidunas.

The special would be one of the many reduced-cost or free programs that could be cut from the clinic with a lack of state funding.

Vidunas also paints a different picture that may become a reality for the clinic. A room on the second floor is equipped with couches and chairs, not typically what you would find in a clinic, outside of a waiting room.

The space is home to counseling services, where newly pregnant patients come in to discuss plans from adoption to abortion to finding OB-GYN doctors in the area, free of cost. These conversations can take up to an hour of a health worker’s time.

“It’s truly, truly about choice, and it’s whatever is best for you, and we’re not the experts of your body in your life. You are,” Vidunas said. “We are here to give you all the information we possibly can so that then you can make an informed decision about your own life.”

If she has to raise the cost of the service, even up to $50, she knows most of her patients will not be able to afford it. For self-paying customers, which make up 30% of clients, payment is coming out of their pockets, not through an insurance provider.

The center operates a sliding payment scale that starts at 250% of the federal poverty level, and where fees are calculated based on family size and income.

“For somebody who does not have a lot of money yet finds out that they’re pregnant, are they really going to be able to pay for sitting with somebody for an hour to talk about all of their pregnancy options?” she said.

These free client-oriented services are what she prides the center on providing. There are few places in the state where you can sit down on a couch in an old house and just talk about your sexual health, she said.

Abortions account for less than half of their business. She knows the potential of scaling back services or charging fees will hurt a portion of clients that walk in the doors with abortion not even on their radar.

“We’re limiting where they can get information. We’re limiting where they can get LGBTQ services. We’re limiting all where they can get good family planning services,” she said.

Vidunas also holds up a two-sided handout illustrating each birth control option — pros and cons, descriptions, success rates and pictures are highlighted in a purple chart. Rather than handing the paper to patients and sending them on their way, they sit down and talk through each option.

Birth control conversations, as well as free pregnancy testing, could also be hit with a price tag to offset staff paychecks.

She did not have to let staff go throughout the pandemic. With fewer clients and staff working fewer hours, the books balanced out. But when a few staff members left in the last year, she has yet to replace them.

“We have been short-staffed for over a year now,” she said.

Now she’s advertising one position, but only part-time. In reality, there are two full positions that should be filled, but no money to fund them.

“I only have one up, because I don’t know if I can afford both. And the one that we have is not a full-time position, because I don’t know if we can afford that,” she said.

Limiting choices

Vidunas was not surprised that funding cuts and abortion restrictions, like mandating ultrasounds and banning abortion after 24 weeks, were proposed in the State House. She has seen Republican legislators attempt this for years. But she was surprised Sununu signed off on the budget.

“New Hampshire is supposed to be about choice. And you’ve taken that choice away,” she said.

And passing these rules through the state budget, where the legislative process differs from that of proposing a bill, also blindsided her.

“Instead of going through the normal legislative process where people get to actually voice their concerns, for or against, submit testimony and do all kinds of wonderful things, they threw it into a budget. It’s frankly very sneaky,” she said.

“It’s just not open. That’s not how governments should run.”

In the past, the budget has helped the center. In 2019, after family planning providers withdrew from Title X funding over the Trump administration’s gag rule, the budget served as a savior, funding the lost federal dollars. Now, family planning providers are in limbo as a result of new budget protocols.

On June 30, the two-year contracts providers had with the state expired.

“We’ve been continuing family planning services through the month of July with no payment,” she said. “We’re still providing that full array with no dollars to back up to help with staffing. It’s going to be it’s very costly. And plus, we know that we’re going to be severely reduced.”

Now the budget proposes a financial audit before a new contract is discussed, which could delay state funding further in the interim. This is to ensure that family planning providers are not using state or federal dollars on abortion services.

The Executive Council will meet in August, and Vidunas hopes that they will discuss these contracts for providers. Funding will be allocated based on the number of patients each provider saw pre-pandemic, she was told.

She is also unsure what the financial audit prior to the contract will entail.

“With this new law, we don’t know, are they going to go by the current standards that are being used? Are they going to be made tougher?” she said. “We absolutely have no clue what are they going to do. And that’s nerve-racking when you’re going to be up for a financial audit, and you don’t know what they’re auditing and how they’re auditing.”

As she waits for federal funding, she knows she has to keep her doors open, whether that means charging for services, making cuts or doing more fundraising events.

If Vidunas has to pivot and start charging for services, she’ll look to insurance providers for estimates for reimbursements.

Regardless, the center has to carry on and adapt to keep helping patients, she said.

“We’re just such a beacon of light for so many people. I always tell people we’re the tiny clinic that could,” she said. “We’re tiny but mighty.”

But even if the clinic shrinks in the meantime, Vidunas has no plans to shut doors or move from the house where an original poster from their 1974 founding hangs in the doorway. The proximity to the State House provides a dichotomy between a lack of funds and an expectation of services.

“This location, it’s great. Because what it does is it shows that we’re here and we’re proud,” she said. “We may change services a little bit, but we’re not gonna go away.”