Giving Thought: Reproductive health care for anyone who needs it

Tamara Tormolen
Giving Thought

Often lost in the political debates around Planned Parenthood is the fact that the organization is a vital resource for millions of Americans who need various reproductive health services.

To better understand Planned Parenthood’s role in the regional health care landscape, I am speaking this week with Rebecca Binion, who manages the Planned Parenthood health center in Glenwood Springs.

Aspen Community Foundation: Please describe your place in the regional health care picture and, in particular, your Patients-In-Need program.

Rebecca Binion: Patients come to our Glenwood Springs health center seeking a variety of reproductive health care services, and we pride ourselves on providing the highest quality care to the women, men and teens who come through our doors. We offer a range of services, including annual wellness exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control and emergency contraception, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and abortion care.

Most of our Glenwood patients remain either uninsured or underinsured. They come to Planned Parenthood knowing they can get affordable, high-quality care at our health centers, no matter what. If any patient demonstrates a need for financial assistance, our Patients-In-Need fund allows us to help them. We’re grateful for the Aspen Community Foundation’s support of this critical fund.

ACF: Describe your patients in Glenwood, and whether their needs differ from other Planned Parenthood health centers around the state.

RB: Our location in Glenwood Springs is unique in that it is the only health center west of metro Denver along the Interstate 70 corridor into mid-Utah. This means we see local patients as well as people from across a geographic region that includes the Vail Valley, Grand Junction, Montrose and even parts of Utah. They come to us for services they may not be able to get in their communities.

Even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the majority of the patients we see still lack any form of insurance. For patients who are undocumented, the Patients-In-Need fund is often the only assistance for which they qualify. That’s why the compassionate care we provide is more important than ever.

We strive to be an accessible resource to all in the community. Our health center sees more Spanish-speaking patients than any other location in our four-state Planned Parenthood affiliate — we have three full-time bilingual staff members to serve them. As a rural health center, we serve patients who may not have the same health care options as someone in a large metropolitan area. People travel far and wide to see us, and we support them by offering services like birth control by mail to ensure that we reduce or remove as many barriers as possible.

ACF: What are you most proud of that Planned Parenthood has accomplished over the years in this region?

RB: We’re incredibly proud of the way we’ve expanded services to reflect community needs. In response to trends in our region, we cultivate relationships with partner organizations to support our patients.

For example, we recently began offering PrEP, a daily medication that reduces the risk of HIV infection and strengthens the connection between providers and patients through regular visits. We’ve also partnered with the Western Colorado AIDS Project to improve continuity of care for those who are diagnosed with HIV.

ACF: Has day-to-day business changed in any way because of the current political climate?

RB: Our patients do share their concerns with us, and many have feelings of uncertainty. Some worry about whether their families will be allowed to stay together, given the national attention on immigration issues. Others are asking for long-acting reversible contraceptives such as IUDs out of uncertainty about their future access to insurance coverage.

Our patients rely on us for compassionate care. In the face of opposition from the current administration, it’s vital that we continue to protect access to that care. We work closely with our political team and partner organizations throughout the state to make sure the values of Coloradans are represented and protected.

We are the only health care provider that many of our patients see — not just because of a lack of resources in their communities, but because we are Planned Parenthood. We’ve been a trusted provider for more than 102 years, and we’re still working hard to ensure our care remains available and accessible to all.

Tamara Tormohlen is executive director of the Aspen Community Foundation.