People in need of reproductive healthcare will soon have a new option in Burlington. A family planning clinic is opening almost a year after Planned Parenthood closed three of its Southeast Iowa facilities.
The Planned Parenthood in Burlington served 2,000 patients before it closed in June. Local medical providers believe the need for birth control, STD tests and cancer screenings is still there. Amy O'Brien is a Vice President at Great River Health Systems, which is opening the clinic in Burlington.
“We’ve had a void in our community ever since," O'Brien said. "We first hoped that patients would be coming to our other care facilities but we found that it wasn’t the same level of experience and we did not have sliding fee schedules built into our services.”
The new facility will bill patients based on their income. And like the closed Planned Parenthood clinic, it will not provide abortions.
O'Brien says the main barriers to care for those who relied on the shuttered clinic are cost and a lack of trust. She believes patients will feel safer at a specialized center designed to address their specific care, especially those who may be underage or don't want their families to know their health needs.
“We want to be able to have a service where patients feel comfortable walking in the door and talking to a provider, again, that’s trained in that area to be able to avoid any feeling of being looked down upon," O'Brien said. "We just want to provide the care that they need."
The facility has hired two former staffers from the closed Planned Parenthood: a nurse practitioner and the clinic manager. O'Brien hopes the staffers will help guide the transition and ensure the center becomes financially independent. In order to establish the clinic, Great River Health Systems is tapping into community donations and a federal Title X grant, which is designed to help provide reproductive healthcare to low-income patients.
In 2017, state lawmakers blocked federal funding for organizations that provide abortions. That change ultimately forced the closure of four of Iowa's Planned Parenthood clinics in Burlington, Keokuk, Bettendorf and Sioux City.
The new Burlington clinic is slated to open in June.