Sixty-nine local teenagers are among the more than 400 Blaine County clients who will have to find alternative sources of family planning services until the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare contracts with a provider to replace the South Central Health District office in Bellevue.
Due to the departure of a physician’s assistant, services there were discontinued in late July, though existing prescriptions for contraceptive pills can be refilled through Sept. 30. Women now need to travel to a Planned Parenthood clinic in Twin Falls to obtain low-cost family planning services.
South Central Public Health District provided birth control information and supplies, counseling, referrals, pregnancy testing, physical exams and HIV/AIDS counseling and testing.
Despite the discontinuation of family planning services there, the office remains open to provide all other services, including immunizations.
Dr. Julie Lyons, a family physician at St. Luke’s Clinic in Hailey, called the once-a-week family-planning service “a great resource for the uninsured families and teens.” She said she has referred low-income patients there for family planning services.
“Easy access to birth control is critical for a healthy community,” she said. “If I tell a patient to go to Twin—the patients that are using these services are low-resource anyway—that’s a big barrier.”
Lyons said the regular cost of contraceptive pills in the Wood River Valley is $20 per month and an IUD, a popular method of birth control among young people, costs about $700 to obtain from a regular doctor.
“Easy access to birth control is critical for a healthy community.”
Dr. Julie Lyons
Cheryle Becker, the Health District’s family and children’s health administrator, said the district is encouraging women to look at their health insurance policies to see whether they are covered for family planning services. She said many people’s policies have changed as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare spokesman Tom Shanahan said the department will be speaking with representatives from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services this week to discuss options for using its federal Title X grant money to contract for family planning services.
According to the Department of Health and Welfare, there were 15 pregnancies in females age 15-19 (a rate of 24.8 pregnancies per 1,000) in Blaine County in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. No girl under 15 became pregnant in Blaine County in 2012.
In Idaho as a whole in 2012, there were 1,891 pregnancies in females age 15-19 (a rate of 34.1 pregnancies per 1,000). Throughout the state, 17 girls under age 15 became pregnant that year.
The Blaine County figure of 15 teen pregnancies dropped from 22 in 2010. That translates to a rate of 39.6 per thousand, slightly higher than the state average that year of 39.3 per thousand.
Greg Moore: firstname.lastname@example.org