Thursday, November 3, 2011

Clinics Closing; Access Declining

All across Texas, the deep cuts to preventive care and birth control are being felt. The 82nd Texas Legislature reduced Family Planning funding by two-thirds, reducing funding from $111 million to $37.9 million for the next 2 years. The Family Planning program provides checkups, screenings, and birth control not abortion for low-income individuals.

The Department of State Health Services (DSHS) estimates that 180,000 women will lose access to preventive care and birth control this year. This means over 20,000 more unplanned births (at an average cost of $11,268, not counting infant care), and nearly $100 million in additional costs to Texas taxpayers.

Fifteen agencies were defunded, including six Planned Parenthood affiliates and nine other clinics. Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), such as CentroMed, were given priority for the family planning funding. However, FQHCs are busy and themselves facing reduced family planning funding; they will not be able to meet the additional need for services. The second priority for funding is public providers, such as University Health System (UHS). The third priority is specialty clinics, such as community family planning clinics and Planned Parenthood affiliates.

In San Antonio, UHS's funding was cut from approximately $1.8 million per year to $237,000 for the last 3 months of 2011.  Future family planning funding for UHS is uncertain and likely to be much less.  UHS will strive to serve as many women and men as possible, using CareLink and other funding sources, if possible. However, funding for contraceptives will likely be limited. 

In 2010, CentroMed received $476,000 in state family planning funding.  For the transition period of the last 3 months of 2011, CentroMed received over $97,000.  Of course, funding levels for 2012 are not yet known. In addition, FQHCs like CentroMed often are so busy that their ability to increase the number served for family planning may be limited.   

Planned Parenthood in San Antonio no longer receives funding through the state of Texas.  While no San Antonio Planned Parenthood clinics will be closed, the clinic in Alice and one of two clinics in the Brownsville area will close.  In San Antonio, no state funding means that private philanthropy will make possible a sliding fee scale for low-income Planned Parenthood clients.   
   
In the Austin area, Planned Parenthood lost funding, as did People's Community Clinic and El Buen Samaritano clinic. These 3 providers saw cuts totaling $1.4 million, which provided care for 13,000 low-income women and men. Planned Parenthood of Hidalgo County has closed 4 of its 8 clinics and laid off half its staff. Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas will lose an estimated $5 million in funding. This means an estimated 30,000 low-income women in Dallas County will lose access to birth control.

Funding levels for January 2012 forward, with the reduced funding available, are not yet determined. Providers are submitting their funding proposals soon for the period beginning January 2012. 

Along with other public health advocates, members and friends of the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA) are troubled by the drastic reduction in available services. The coalition will be working to tell the story of the effects of the family planning cuts in San Antonio. HFA will also work to help our community understand the importance of preventive care and birth control-and to distinguish family planning from abortion.

Reprinted from the Healthy Futures Alliance (HFA) newsletter. HFA is a community coalition dedicated to reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy in San Antonio.  HFA has members who are pro-choice and others who are pro-life, but all are working together on prevention, using science-based strategies.  Learn more about HFA, and Healthy Futures of Texas, the non-profit that supports HFA, at www.HealthyFuturesTX.org.

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