Family Planning Services to Continue at District Health Department
Note: This is a guest editorial for the Reno Gazette-Journal submitted by Dr. Mary Anderson, District Health Officer.
Like all County departments, the Washoe County District Health Department (WCDHD) has been asked to decrease expenditures to meet strict budget reduction targets for the coming year. Unfortunately, misinformation about the future of WCDHD's family planning services in light of overall budget cuts, including inaccuracies in the Reno Gazette-Journal on February 27, 2008, has been circulating throughout our community. In response, it is my obligation as District Health Officer to set the record straight.
First, there currently are no plans to close our Family Planning Program, which provides comprehensive family planning services to individuals of childbearing age on a sliding scale fee schedule. In fact, the need for these services is significant. During calendar year 2007, we served a combined total of 4,014 clients during 9,383 visits at our Family Planning Clinic and Teen Health Mall located at the District Health Department and our sub-contracted clinic at Incline Village. Fifty-two percent of our clients were at the poverty level and 90 percent were uninsured. Our program is the only one in Washoe County assisting clients regardless of their ability to pay.
Second, it is our intent to continue using the Title X funds we receive to provide family planning services. Our program currently receives about 51 percent of its funding from Washoe County and 49 percent from the federal government. In concert with overall County budget reduction efforts, our goal over the next three years is to transition program funding to be more in line with regional norms by depending less on local dollars and relying more on federal Title X subsidization.
Finally, we do not perform or pay for abortion services. Federal law prohibits us from using federal monies to pay for abortions, and no Title X clinic can pay for pregnancy termination services.
We are proud of our Family Planning Program and our dedicated staff members who provide a wide array of services including: routine gynecological exams and follow up for abnormal results; counseling on all options for birth control, including abstinence; vasectomies through paid referrals; pregnancy testing and counseling; referrals to prenatal care and testing; and treatment and counseling for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Additional services for adolescents include physical examinations and psychosocial assessments, including screening and counseling for domestic violence; treatment of minor routine illnesses; and education about sexual responsibility and the importance of early detection of sexually transmitted diseases.
We are honored to have recently received the prestigious award for a model practice from the National Association of City and County Health Organizations for our "Positive Choices, Positive Futures" educational program. This effort targets parents with tools to communicate with their children about sexual responsibility with the goal of reducing rates of adolescent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
In keeping with the WCDHD's mission of protecting and enhancing the quality of life for all citizens of Washoe County through promoting health and preventing disease, we want to ensure that, through our Family Planning Program, we provide a safety net for those who need it most.