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Commissioners balk at accepting federal funds – grant for Family Planning clinic in jeopardy

By Michael Howell

At least two of the Ravalli County Commissioners expressed strong objections last Tuesday, July 19, to accepting federal funds for the Public Health Department’s Family Planning Program. Commissioners Matt Kanenwisher and Suzy Foss both expressed strong objections to accepting federal funds with strings attached, especially when the strings attached have to do with possibly prescribing birth control to minors without requiring parental notification.

Public Health Nurse Judy Griffin told the commissioners that the Family Planning Program has been in place in the Public Health Office since the 1970s. The clinic offers education and counseling about nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control. It offers low cost contraceptives and other medications to its patients. Under federal law the services are confidential between patient and clinic. Under Title X even minors have this right to privacy and information can be kept confidential even from their parents.

Griffin said that the program’s budget for last year was $50,000, but that this year’s budget was set at $39,807. She said that the clinic’s hours had been cut in half. In prior years the clinic was open four times a month but that was being reduced to twice a month under the new contract as a cost savings measure. The services are contracted out with federal dollars paying half the cost of the contract and the county paying the other half.

Commissioner Kanenwisher said that he could accept part of the program. “Screening for infectious diseases makes sense,” he said, “but I don’t believe birth control is part of public health… Combine that with minors getting it without their parents’ permission and I, personally, cannot cross that line,” said Kanenwisher.

Kanenwisher ridiculed the notion of emergency contraception saying, “contraception after the fact is not contraception.”

Commissioner Suzy Foss was in agreement.

“We are going to hell in a hand basket,” said Foss, “and everything we do about it adds to the problem.” She said that she could not be a part of taking parenting away from parents. She said that the government should not be getting involved in medical issues.

Commissioner Greg Chilcott raised the issue of the cost of varying contraceptives. Griffin explained that the county provides at low cost both pills and injections. She said in response to questioning that the past offering of IUD devices had been discontinued due to budget constraints. Chilcott also stated that he had a problem with youth being treated without parental notification.

Foss called it an accountability problem. These are major life decisions, she said, and even if their parents are not consulted they still end up dealing with the consequences. She said not contacting parents contributed to the breakdown of the family unit.

Chilcott asked Griffin, “What are our options?” He wondered if some parts of the program could be supported and others not.

Griffin said that she could not really answer that question. She suggested they ask the State Director of the program who administers the federal funds being used in the contract. She said they had 45 days to sign the contract with the federal funds attached, although an extension of that deadline may be possible.

Griffin said on Monday that she was in communication with Colleen Lindsey, the State Director of Women and Men’s Health, and was hoping to arrange a meeting with the commissioners, perhaps by the first week of August.

5 Responses to Commissioners balk at accepting federal funds – grant for Family Planning clinic in jeopardy
  1. Michael Sokol
    August 8, 2011 | 4:26 am

    the border collie on How Smart are Animals PBS knew the names of 800 toys, I’m sure she has a higher IQ than all 5 Ravalli County comms. I have no words to describe their stupity and arrogance.

  2. Jake
    July 30, 2011 | 3:05 pm

    If you want federal money, then you should be ready to accept the requirements for receiving that money. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
    Contraception for young people is preferable over unwanted births or abortions. Young people are going to have sex whether we like or not. The least we can do is provide them with education, contraception, and protection from STDs. It’s not about being “right”, it’s about what is real. We can’t put our heads in the sand and pretend that adolescent sex does not happen. It does and we cannot prevent it. So the next best thing is to protect our kids from the consequences.

    • David Henrich
      July 31, 2011 | 4:25 am

      The way that I see this is that the government is encouraging young people to go against their parents’ counsel. Did it ever occur to you, Jake, that there are many young people who abstain simply because their parents taught them that pre-marital sex is immoral? The government contradicts the parents’ counsel by saying, in effect, that premarital sex might not be the best choice, but it is ok if you protect yourself. Isn’t that the message? My children are raised, but I would resent any organization that went against my religious or personal moral beliefs behind my back by providing contraception to my children.
      Since when does the governmnent’s authority supercede a parent’s God-given right to raise a child according to core moral/rligious beliefs?

  3. S Lewis
    July 27, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    I don’t know who Mr Kanenwisher or Mrs Foss think they are but they are not GOD. They don’t have the right to dictate what is right or wrong for anyone but themselves. I am a parent of four grown children and when they were teenagers I would have rather had them go to public health to get contraception then to have them come home pregnant. Teenagers don’t always feel comfortable telling their parents things when it comes to sex, so there has to be somewhere they can go to get what they need to have safe sex. How many STDs and unwanted pregnancies are there going to be if the family planning clinic closes? How many children will be born to teenagers who don’t want them so they end up being abused, neglected or as we see in the news, murdered. It would be a shame to know that you were the one that contributed to that. Family planning is essential to this community whether your religious or moral beliefs agree.

  4. Dennis Matthews
    July 27, 2011 | 2:44 pm

    I agree whenever the government gives anything and attaches something to it you can count on it being something you don’t need or want. Congratulations to Matt and Suzy for standing up and doing the right thing.

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