Family Planning Community Clinic program to end Sept. 30

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Mower County Board voted unanimously to discontinue the Family Planning Community Clinic program on Tuesday afternoon.

During the board’s regular session, Health and Human Services Director Lisa Kocer, made the recommendation to county commissioners to discontinue the program that had been operating since 1997, and to assist current patients in the program to transition to other providers by Sept. 30. Officials also approved to reassign a full-time nurse over to the Healthy Families America program.

“We’ve discussed that the program would need to phase out by Sept. 30. But we need to get them to a different provider. Numbers have dramatically gone down.”
– Lisa Kocer, Health and Human Services Director

Several factors led to the recommendation. Kocer cited that the Affordable Care Act assisted patients in getting access to care in more traditional clinic settings, and that there was also a difficulty in securing volunteer providers for the program. Long-term contraceptives that didn’t exist in the late ‘90s now being available, also led to the dwindling numbers. Without getting awarded grant funding for the next two years, then the county’s taxpayers would have to bear the cost of operating the program, Kocer added.

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“Are there other programs so (patients) won’t be left out in the cold?” asked Commissioner Jerry Reinartz.

“We’ve discussed that the program would need to phase out by Sept. 30,” Kocer said. “But we need to get them to a different provider. Numbers have dramatically gone down.”

Almost a month ago, Mower County Department of Health and Human Services released a community health report that indicated that despite the resources that were aimed toward the public, there was still a significant decline in the number of individuals that use the clinic’s services.

However,the report also disclosed data that showed that Mower County was above state average for teen birth rates and STI rates.

From 2014 to 2016 — the most current statistics available — Mower County had 27 teen births per 1,000 people, which was higher than the state average rate of 14 teen births per 1,000, according to a previous story. Mower County also ranked third in Minnesota for the highest rate of gonorrhea, following behind Hennepin and Ramsey counties. Community Health had also hosted an STI testing day at Riverland Community College, and 17 people took tests, and one positive test came from it.

Back in 2007, Mower County had about 181 patients at their clinics. Last year, Mower County only saw 37 patients coming in for birth control, considering this to be a “drastic drop.”

Despite providing free clinics and access to contraceptives, there’s still a decline in patients. Community Health staff had distributed about 5,200 free condoms last year, which jumped up to 6,400 free condoms distributed this year.

The Family Planning Community Clinic is a health clinic that provides low-cost family planning and STI services, and was formerly known as the Open Door Clinic that services Mower and Freeborn counties.

Services are usually geared toward patients who lack adequate insurance coverage for their birth control and sexual health needs. Minors can consent to these services without parental consent. The services are funded by the Minnesota Department of Health. Services obtained by patients remain confidential.

Some of the services that the clinic offers was planning services to prevent unplanned pregnancies and STIs, providing contraceptives such as condoms, annual exams and pap smears, testing and treatment of STIs, pregnancy tests, health and relationship education along with counseling, referrals to local and regional resources and enrollment in the Minnesota Family Planning Program.

“We can get the needs met,” Kocer said. “It doesn’t mean that the problems are all solved.”