Family planning clinics to open
EAGLE COUNTY ” Public health officials are opening two family planning clinics to cut down on the number of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended and teen pregnancies in Eagle County, said the county’s public health manager.
A publicly funded family planning clinic in Eagle is slated to open in August to provide reproductive health care for primarily uninsured families in the county, Jill Hunsaker said. Another clinic will open in Avon in late fall.
“This is really an opportunity for Eagle County to help meet a health care need, especially among people who are low income and don’t have health insurance, so that’s what prompted it,” Hunsaker said.
Kathleen Forinash, county director of health and human services, estimates 80 to 90 percent of those who will use the clinic will be low income.
“There’s a relatively high rate of uninsured families and there are a lot of families that rely on Medicaid for their insurance” in Eagle County, Forinash said.
These families typically only get emergency health care, she said. Because they can’t afford to have a family doctor, they don’t have access to preventative or reproductive health care.
“We recognize that it’s an extensive and difficult service for people to have when they don’t have insurance,” Forinash said.
The clinics will charge for appointments and birth control on a sliding scale, so lower-income clients will only be asked to make a donation, Forinash said. The fee system and other factors in opening the clinics have yet to be worked out.
“We are in the process now of really doing our planning and really putting our protocols in place,” Hunsaker said.
Although the clinics will not perform abortions, they will provide various methods of birth control and family planning services.
“(Family planning services) help them space their family or determine if they want to wait to have a child when they’re older, when they’re more financially stable, when they’re more ready,” Hunsaker said.
Additionally, the clinics will offer screening for breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases. Chlamydia, which is easily treatable, is the leading reportable disease in the county.
“There are more cases of chlamydia reported than food-borne illness,” Hunsaker said.
However, 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men who have chlamydia don’t have symptoms, according to Planned Parenthood.
That makes screening for the disease all the more important, Hunsaker said. It also means there may be more cases in Eagle County than the data shows.
“When we offer these services, we’re going to catch even more,” she said.
The number of reported sexually transmitted diseases and teen births has actually gone down during the past few years, but Hunsaker said it’s too soon to determine if it is a trend.
The family planning clinics will be located at the existing public health offices at the old courthouse in Eagle, 551 Broadway, and at Avon Center, 100 W. Beaver Creek Blvd., Suite 107.
Later this month, county public health officials will convene a Family Planning Community Advisory Committee to work with the clinics on an ongoing basis, Forinash said.
Local doctors have been supportive of the clinics, Forinash said.
“We’ve certainly found that other health care providers are very excited about the fact that there will be this additional service,” she said.
A Title X federal grant, administered through the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, will provide more than a quarter of the clinics’ annual funding. The rest will come from Medicaid reimbursement, fees, donations and the county’s contribution.
“We expect it will become more self-sustaining as the months go by,” Forinash said.
Nic Corbett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org