New East Oakland Planned Parenthood expands services
on October 15, 2015
Newly-opened in June, Planned Parenthood’s East Oakland/Coliseum Health Center plans to expand its reproductive healthcare services to include surgical abortions in early 2016 and may add vasectomies as well.
In August, the clinic introduced medication abortion services, a process involving the termination of pregnancy via abortifacient drugs. These additional procedures will complement Planned Parenthood’s general services, which include sexually transmitted disease screenings, birth control, breast exams, Pap smears and prenatal care. Men can also make sexual health care appointments at the center.
Demand for services at the new clinic is already growing. The clinic saw 250 patients in June and twice that number in the most recent month. If growth continues, the clinic may extend its hours further.
Clinic leaders said expansion of services is continuing despite a threat to cut federal funding amid a national controversy over doctored videos purporting to show sale of fetal parts for profit – something Planned Parenthood’s national leadership says is false and misleading. Planned Parenthood representatives stated that the organization would not allow controversy surrounding its services to affect the health care it provides. Still, news about the growth of the organization does not appear in the media as much as the national debate.
“Sometimes you have to deal with putting out the fires before you can deal with [the news] that we’re moving forward and expanding our community net,” said Donna McNichol, manager of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, a regional team that oversees sites in 40 counties in Northern California and Nevada including those in Alameda County.
“We [the organization] always need advocates. We’re going to need them more than ever with election season coming up,” Linda Williams, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, told a gathering of community supporters at a recent open house. The organization is preparing for Congress to bring up additional defunding proposals when they vote on the federal budget in December.
“People get distracted with the controversy, but in reality, we provide much-needed medical services,” said Karen Grove, a Planned Parenthood Mar Monte board member since 2008. She stressed the accessibility of the new site, which is adjacent to the Coliseum BART stop and the Alameda County Social Service’s Medi-Cal Center.
The group is focusing on publicizing its new location through social media and the organization’s call center. Community partners such as the Alameda Department of Public Health have also helped get the word out. Once the center has assessed demand in the neighborhood, its staff can adjust further. “We’ll see what the need is out there and try to be adaptable,” McNichol said. “Some of our locations do prenatal services; some of our locations do primary care. So we’re open to those options but they haven’t been determined as being a need.”
Identifying the patient population, which varies by clinic, and determining what changes need to be made will take time. The average Planned Parenthood client is 24 years old, which may come as a surprise to some who believe the organization serves primarily minors, McNichol said. The new center, still in the process of training its staff, is intended to be responsive and flexible for its patients.
Last week, at the East Oakland clinic’s open house, guests milled about the spacious, clean waiting room decorated with Planned Parenthood posters and informational brochures. A couple of protesters, separated from the front door by a lawn and paved pathway, stood on the sidewalk outside displaying a large anti-Planned Parenthood banner. Staff checked in visitors by the doorway, passing out name tags and pink “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” stickers.
“We’re so very happy to offer this large, bright, beautiful space to the community,” Williams said to community guests.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and California Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-East Oakland) expressed their gratitude to the organization at the event. “Thank you for fighting the war that is being waged against my ovaries,” Schaaf said.
The California Healthcare Workforce Policy Commission, a team of health care representatives organized by the state’s Office of Statewide Health and Development, has deemed parts of Alameda County, including Oakland, underserved medical areas, indicating an unequal distribution of services. Aware of this designation, Planned Parenthood has worked closely with the Alameda Department of Public Health and local safety net providers to determine which services to offer and in what communities.
Before the first Alameda County Planned Parenthood opened, the organization founded a group of small locations, or satellite sites, with part-time hours, including one at the Youth Radio offices in downtown Oakland, a site at the WIC (Women, Infant, and Children) offices at the Oakland Eastmont Mall and a small location in partnership with the Berkeley Public Health Department. These Alameda County satellites have since closed.
The new East Oakland facility is one of the larger Planned Parenthood clinics, containing 11 exam rooms, compared to 4 at the West Oakland clinic, which opened in 2013. It is the third Planned Parenthood to open in Alameda County after the West Oakland and Hayward sites.
“The Alameda County Public Health [Department] said having someone provide the reproductive health would really help. And so we said, ‘Well, that’s the easy one for us. That’s our main thing,’” McNichol said.
“I think it will help people be healthy and stay focused on their goals,” Grove said of the new center.
At the gathering, Williams spoke about welcoming Covered California and Medi-Cal patients. Planned Parenthood leaders said that the organization has in fact seen changes with the passage of the Affordable Care Act. These changes have arrived with a variety of provisions that improve insurance coverage of preventative health services, ensure women’s health services are well-defined, and prevent insurance plans from inflating their charges for services received by a woman rather than a man. In conjunction with these provisions, the organization intends to continue providing affordable and accessible reproductive health care. “We’re here to serve the community needs,” McNichol said.
The new Planned Parenthood is located on 8480 Enterprise Way in Oakland. Hours are 8:30 AM-5:30 PM Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; 10:30 AM-7:00 PM Wednesday. More information is available here.
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