By Ann McCreary
After 15 years of providing family planning services in the Methow Valley, the Twisp Family Planning Clinic at Room One will close on Jan. 1, 2016.
The clinic, administered by Family Planning of North Central Washington, has provided reproductive health exams, birth control, sexually transmitted disease testing and vaccinations, and sexual health education.
Family Planning’s decision to close the Twisp clinic is a reflection of a “few small successes in our medical system,” said Elana Mainer, Room One executive director.
“Through the Affordable Care Act more individuals can access family planning services from their primary care providers,” Mainer said. That has resulted in decreased use of the clinic, she said.
Additionally, she said, an increasing number of people are using long-term family planning methods, such as birth control pills or intrauterine devices (IUDs), “reducing their overall visits to specialized family planning clinics.”
The closure raises some concerns, Mainer said, about making sure services are available in the Methow Valley to people who need it most — people on limited incomes or inadequate insurance, people seeking specialized, confidential family planning services, and teenagers.
Okanogan County has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state and teenagers in particular could be at risk of “slipping through the cracks,” after the family planning clinic closes, Mainer said.
She said Room One plans to work with local medical clinics operated by Family Health Centers and Confluence Health to encourage them “to prioritize teens in their caseload.”
Studies have shown, she said, that “when teens need to see a provider for family planning resources, they need to be seen as soon as possible.“
She said confidentiality is a key factor in making family planning services available to teens. At Room One, for instance, the Family Planning clinic had a separate entrance to protect clients’ confidentiality.
Mainer said Room One would also work with local clinics to determine what services are available and what they cost. “We want to serve as a link for teens and anybody who needs family planning services, advocating to make sure there are no gaps.”
The clinic operated by Family Planning had an income-based sliding fee scale that went to zero. Mainer said Room One would discuss with local clinics ways to ensure that family planning resources in the valley are affordable.
Although the Twisp clinic will close, Family Planning — a private, nonprofit organization — will continue to operate a clinic in Okanogan and offer a sliding scale.