SIKESTON -- A boost in funding will enable both Scott and New Madrid counties' health departments to continue offering their family planning programs currently utilized by over 1,000 women.
The health center in Sikeston was recently awarded a $100,000-basic support grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to be dispersed over the next two years.
New Madrid County Health Department in New Madrid was also awarded a two-year basic support grant but in the amount of $94,882 to maintain its family planning services.
Scott County Health Department administrator Barry Cook said the grant will keep the program going and possibly expand the number of people who use its services.
"This is a support grant to our family planning program, which has been around for years," Cook said. "With the state cuts in funding, we have -- for the past two or three years -- been passing the cost onto the customer and tax dollars."
Scott and New Madrid County's public health centers were among 58 Missouri organizations to receive a share of nearly $6 million in grants from Missouri Foundation for Health as part of its basic support funding effort.
"You're always surprised when you receive a grant, and it was a competitive grant across the state," Cook said, adding funds will go mostly toward salaries of the nurse practitioner and for program supplies.
"It really was a lifesaver for our family planning services," said Dr. Charles Baker, New Madrid County Health Department's administrator.
Prior to receiving the grant, all of New Madrid County's family planning service funds came out of its general revenue.
"We used to get contracts with the state health department for family planing," Baker said. "They decided not to fund it anymore, but we were still providing free service -- and it was putting us in a bind. With this money, we can continue our family planning."
Baker said the department, which serves about 500 residents a year, would've had to start charging family planning customers if they hadn't received the grant.
Scott County's nurse practitioner Kay Griffin said the county's caseload has stayed steady for the past five to 10 years at 1,000.
"When we lost funding several years ago, we did lose some patients," Griffin said.
Most recently the funding situation got to the point where Scott County had to offer services for free or for a very small charge, Griffin said.
Hopefully, costs won't have to increase since the county is receiving extra funds, Griffin said. Lab services conducted by Scott County will also remain free from the state; if any test results are serious or abnormal, patients will still be referred to a private practice, she said.
Services offered through county family planning programs range from pap smears to the birth control process.
"It's basically a women's health care clinic where women can receive a complete physical, breast, pap and pelvic exams," Griffin said. "We also discuss what kind of birth control they're interested in using."
A variety of birth control -- pills, the injection or the patch -- are offered through the program. Height, weight, blood pressure checks are also included in the visits, which can be for women of all ages and health statuses. "The program is very important because it can prevent unwanted pregnancies, not only to teens but to adult women. It helps decrease the abortion rate, and it decreases births from women who didn't want a child and may not have gotten the proper prenatal care while they were pregnant," Griffin said.
One baby in the neonatal (newborn) unit costs the state thousands and thousands of dollars, Griffin said.
"If this program saves one person from having an unwanted baby, it's well worth it," Griffin said.
LaToya Robinson-Tate of Sikeston has been utilizing the program over the past 12 years.
"It's been an excellent program for me because of the low cost and the convenience," Robinson-Tate said. "It's right here in town and easy to get in. "It's sometimes difficult to get into a regular doctor or another physician and with the health department, you can generally call and get it in right away."
Robinson-Tate, who used to work in social work, also said the department is an excellent resource for people who otherwise wouldn't be able to get these services.
"If this program wasn't here, we'd probably have a much higher number of STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) and more babies," Robinson-Tate said. For more information about family planning or to make an appointment, call the Scott County office at (573) 471-4044, the New Madrid County office at (573) 748-5541 or your local health department.