Planned Parenthood expands with new location

Open house set for Sept. 6

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BRATTLEBORO — After several months in operation, the health center on High Street run by Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is inviting the community inside to learn about the services offered there.

"We've been open in the new location since the spring," said Eileen Sullivan, Vermont spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "This will be an open house celebration."

The move from 402 Canal St. to 6 High St. was made to allow more access to the services offered by Planned Parenthood, she said.

"The new space has been modernized and is more efficient," Sullivan said. "It's a smarter, bigger space. There are two exam rooms and two consultation rooms; our former health center in Brattleboro did not have consultation rooms. We also have a larger lab in the new health center, where we do in-house pregnancy tests and rapid HIV tests."

The Brattleboro office has four staffers — a site manager, a nurse practitioner and two health care associates.

The majority of the patients seen at the clinic come from Brattleboro, Putney and Wilmington, with 1,357 patients in 2017. Seventeen percent of those visitors were teenagers and 43 percent were in their 20s. Seventy-two percent of the patients seen in Brattleboro have incomes of $24,120 or less. In 2017, the clinic provided nearly $99,000 in free health care.

Those who have insurance are also accepted at the region's Planned Parenthood clinics, Sullivan said.

"For payment, we accept most insurance, and we also work with patients utilizing the Vermont Access Plan and New Hampshire Family Planning Medical Assistance," she said.

Sullivan said the services at the Brattleboro clinic include birth control counseling and emergency contraception, pregnancy testing and option counseling, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, breast and cervical cancer screening, vaccinations, general health screening, smoking cessation therapy and referrals for intimate partner violence. Sullivan said the clinic refers patients to Keene, Bennington and Rutland for abortion care.

In 2017, the Brattleboro health center conducted 492 pregnancy tests, 228 Pap tests and 3,448 tests for HIV, herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases.

The region's Planned Parenthood also provides services to men, including reproductive health checks, tests for testicular cancer and treatment for conditions such as "jock itch."

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Transgender care is also available in Brattleboro. In addition, the clinic offers mental health screening and referrals.

The open house is set for Friday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m., starting with an introduction by Lisa Ford and followed by a poem by Verandah Porche. Other presenters include Ann Fielder, a former senior vice president at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and Meagan Gallagher, the organization's current president and CEO. The open house is hosted by Deb Albright, state Rep. Sara Coffey (D-Windham 1), Diane Frost, Jean Kiewel, Barbara Knudson, Diane Leary, Maureen MacDonald, Patty Meyer, Erin Morrison, Hannah Neff, Amanda Root, Carol Schnabel, Michael Szostak, Annette Wilson and Sasha Wolfman.

"Our new Brattleboro health center reflects our dedication to deliver the highest quality health care in a passionate and respectful environment," Sullivan said. "We are fortunate to have such a supportive and engaged population in Brattleboro. It's very important to us that these hosts are participating in the open house because we see them as partners in the fight for reproductive rights."

Loss of federal funding

Last week, Vermont announced it was opting out of the federal Title X funding that provided nearly $1 million a year to Planned Parenthood's offices in Vermont.

Title X, created in 1970, is a federal grant program dedicated to providing comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services to low-income families or uninsured people who might not otherwise have access to these basic health care services. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently issued a final rule that prevents Title X funds from being used by any organizations that include discussions about abortion in their services, what is more commonly referred to as the "gag rule."

Earlier this year, anticipating the federal government's decision to cut off funding to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the Vermont Legislature set aside $800,000 for use from July 1 through July 1 of next year. In March, the Vermont Attorney General's Office joined with 20 other state attorneys general in a civil suit filed in Oregon contesting the new federal rule. In April, a federal judge in Portland sided with the attorneys general and granted an injunction against the rule. The federal government is appealing the injunction, and a federal appeals court ruled in June that for the time being, the new requirement can stay in effect.

Complying with the federal restrictions would violate state law because this year, Vermont enshrined in law "the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion" and prohibited interference with "regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information" and "the choice of a consenting individual to terminate the individual's pregnancy."

If the new rule is not overturned, the Legislature will have to again address the shortfall in funding during its next session, which begins in January 2020.

In total, about 10,000 Vermonters received services from the region's Planned Parenthood through funding provided by Title X.

To donate to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, visit: plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-northern-new-england

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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