пятница, 14 сентября 2012 г.


Byline: CLARE MILLIKEN - The Capital Times, cmilliken@madison.com

When it was time to get a urine sample from patients at the old Planned Parenthood facility on Park Street, staff members would put a collection cup inside a brown paper bag and escort the patient down a long hallway outside the clinic to the nearest bathroom. They tried to make the process as discreet as possible, but the setup was far from ideal, notes Deborah Hobbins, regional vice president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.

'It put the miles on,' she notes dryly.

There will be no need for bathroom escorts at Planned Parenthood's newest health center, set to open today in a brand new building owned by the Urban League of Greater Madison in the revamped Villager Mall. Everything from the filing system, which the agency hopes to digitize, to the eco-friendly lighting is a major step up from Planned Parenthood's old Park Street site.

The cool color palette and comfortable chairs exude a sense of calm and well-being and the two bathrooms inside the clinic, with cut-out windows that allow collection cups to go directly to the lab, provide the kind of privacy expected in modern health clinics.

The product of several years of deliberation and planning, this new facility will also replace Planned Parenthood's West Mifflin Street location. Planned Parenthood's other facility on North Stoughton Road, which is the only center that provides abortions, will remain open.

In its new digs at 2222 S. Park St., Planned Parenthood will share the second floor with the Urban League's new Center for Economic Development and Workforce Development; the Park Street branch of the Madison Public Library is also relocating to the new building. All the organizations will share a common entrance, which Hobbins says will help eliminate any stigma some clients might feel upon entering a family planning clinic. 'It allows them anonymity,' she says.

More importantly, adds Hobbins, the shared building offers her agency a chance to broaden its reach in the community and expand opportunities for its patients. Before or after appointments patients can stop in the library to use a computer or research a topic or visit the Urban League for job training and other help, Hobbins notes.

The new clinic will also be right across the mall from its old location in the Harambee Health Center, and will continue to work with the agencies housed there, including WIC (Women, Infants and Children), the Madison Department of Public Health and Access Community Health Center.

Helene Smythe-Eagle, program director for the Learning Center at MATC's South Campus in the Villager Mall, says the new clinic will help meet the needs of a struggling population.

'It's an awesome plan for South Madison to have Planned Parenthood here,' she says. 'I think it's needed. Our people here don't have health care. So many of them are out of work and looking for work. It's really appropriate in this setting.'

Smythe-Eagle has worked for four years at the Learning Center, a study room and computer lab where students work on their reading, writing and math skills, often in preparation for taking their high school equivalency exams.

She says she gets discouraged by the high numbers of single mothers she sees, as well as fathers who've been incarcerated for not paying child support. Smythe-Eagle hopes the upgraded facility will help these individuals combat the 'complex issues' behind their struggles.

'I'm like, 'Welcome to the neighborhood!'

But at least one Planned Parenthood client is unhappy that the new facility will be supplanting the downtown location.

'This doesn't make logical sense to me,' says Flannery Pendergast, a University of Wisconsin-Madison student who learned of the move in a letter from Planned Parenthood. 'I feel like there should be a Planned Parenthood on every college campus, especially one that's rated one of the top 10 for party schools.' She says the move will also affect high school students, other college students and homeless individuals.

Despite such frustration, Planned Parenthood executives say the new location is the best possible option. Hobbins says the Mifflin Street clinic was extremely 'run down' and the chance to be part of the redevelopment of the Villager Mill was too good an opportunity to pass up.

She says the new center, just off the Beltline and on a bus route two miles from downtown, will be more accessible to more people. The organization also minimizes travel for patients by mailing birth control to patients every three months. Unless clients need other health services, those on the delivery plan only have to visit the center once a year.

'Our main objective is to reach the broadest population and make it accessible to those with the least access to transportation,' says Hobbins.

'We have to look at critical mass.'

The critical mass Hobbins refers to is the estimated 67,000 women and girls in Dane County in need of sexual health care and reproductive services.

Hobbins believes the South Park Street location casts the widest net possible.

She says Planned Parenthood provided family planning services to 10,000 women last year at its three Madison's locations. That doesn't include the abortion services it offers at its Stoughton Road location.

'There really is a lot of unmet need in Dane County,' she says. 'And we're the only one trying to meet it. That's one of the reasons we felt we needed to be accessible to the entire county.'

While helping the greatest number of people was the top priority for the new center, upgrading the technology of the Mifflin and Harambee centers was a key component of the new facility as well. With a $700,000 price tag to 'build out' the clinic, Planned Parenthood officials say the new building will be state-of-the-art, a welcome improvement from the Mifflin location.

Hobbins says the group has raised $575,000 so far, all of it from private donors.

The South Park Street center will provide birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment. These services will complement those offered at Planned Parenthood's full-service health center on North Stoughton Road.

Built in 2004, the Stoughton Road location also offers colposcopies as well as abortions.

Because the Park Street clinic will be the only one receiving federal Title 10 funding, it will be able to serve undocumented residents as well as boys and men, Hobbins says.

Nancy Wrenn Bauch, who runs the Third Street Program at the downtown YWCA, says Planned Parenthood is a place where the low-income single moms she works with can go for information and services related to birth control, pregnancy testing and other health concerns. But she says the organization also empowers its clients to take charge of their own health: 'I think Planned Parenthood is the kind of place that encourages women in a positive way to take care of their bodies and advocate for themselves.'

In addition to direct care, the South Side facility will also offer community-based education programs to reduce the incidence of disease and unplanned pregnancy and promote healthy decision-making. This education program will be relocating to South Park Street from the North Stoughton Road location. Community groups, schools and juvenile detention centers will be able to request that Planned Parenthood come to their facility to discuss a wide range of topics, from puberty and sexuality to healthy relationships and Internet safety. The education center will also offer adults-only programming, where parents learn how to talk to their children about sexuality.

Meghan Benson, the Dane County Education Programs Manager for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, is excited about the move. 'The South Side is such a large, vibrant community,' Benson says.

David Caes, director of operations for the Department of Public Health, is also enthusiastic: 'I think it's a good move, and it will allow [Planned Parenthood] to provide better service, particularly in South Madison. Having them in a more prominent location will hopefully lead more people to their services and make them more aware.'

Posted in Health_med_fit, Education on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 5:30 am


Deborah Hobbins, regional vice president of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, says the organization's new offices at 2222 S. Park St. offers the agency a chance to broaden its reach in the community and, at the same time, present new opportunities for its patients. MICHELLE STOCKER -- The Capital Times

Map of New Planned Parenthood site