The Council renews the contract of a clinic
One of the family planning clinics funded by the Executive Board last month had its funding restored on Wednesday after counselor Janet Stevens turned the tide and backed it up. In doing so, Stevens praised the clinic’s extensive and inexpensive medical services, details that were discussed at length before his non-vote last month.
But that still leaves more than 70 percent of reproductive health care services for low-income residents without funding and parts of the state without low-cost family planning care.
The Belknap and Merrimack Counties Community Action Program saw its retroactive contract, which pays for care already provided, reimbursed in mid-September when council rejected it along with three other contracts over concerns about the use of public funds for abortions. State officials have confirmed that no public money is used for abortions, and unlike Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center, the Community Action Program does not offer abortions. .
Reversing his vote on the Community Action Program contract, which accounts for about 72% of its funding, on Wednesday, Stevens noted that the clinic provides basic reproductive care, which includes mammograms, birth control and treatment. of sexually transmitted diseases, to low-income patients, but also ensures that they have access to primary care services.
“For a small clinic, they do an incredible job,” she said.
Stevens did not return a message asking why the information persuaded her to back the contract this week but not last month. The other two votes for the contract came from Councilors Cinde Warmington and Joe Kenney.
Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, Equality Health Center and Lovering Health Center, which cover more than 70% of low-cost family planning care in the state, remain funded. They said the loss of revenue will lead to longer wait times, increased costs for some patients and fewer services. It also doesn’t leave low-cost family planning care in Sullivan and Cheshire counties, where Planned Parenthood was the sole provider. This will leave patients searching for a new provider, a challenge with the current labor shortage, and possibly even traveling further afield for care.
The legislature set aside $ 50,000 in the budget to encourage other health care providers who do not provide abortion care to take over the low cost reproductive care provided by these three agencies. Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette told councilors on Wednesday that her office had issued requests for proposals and hopes to submit the contracts to the council for approval by the end of the year.
Kristine Stoddard, director of public policy in New Hampshire for the Bi-State Primary Care Association, doesn’t believe there are healthcare providers who can fill the gaps. She said there has not been an abundance of providers seeking these family planning contracts in the past.
“You disproportionately affect low-income Granite Staters when you refuse these contracts unnecessarily,” she said. “And you disproportionately affect women.”
The state’s family planning program relies on nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood, Equality Health Center, Lovering Health Center and other agencies that have been awarded contracts, she said. “These contracts have a long-term impact on their ability to function,” Stoddard said. “And above all, on the ability of their patients to access care. ”
Warmington asked at Wednesday’s meeting that the contracts of these three suppliers be on the agenda of all future board meetings “until they are passed.”
Overcoming the 4-1 votes against them will not be easy. Councilor Ted Gatsas opposes funding for any clinic that makes the morning-after pill available to people under the age of 18 without parental consent. (He was not convinced by arguments that contraception is available at local pharmacies, also without parental consent.) Councilors David Wheeler and Joe Kenney are still not convinced that no state money is not used for abortion. Stevens’ position has been less clear; after voting against the contracts in September, she said they lacked sufficient details.
New Hampshire Bulletin senior reporter Annmarie Timmins is from New Hampshire and has covered state government, court and social justice issues for the Concord Monitor for 25 years.