The reproductive health of every Alaskan is a central element of our state’s collective wellness. Whether you live here on the Southern Kenai Peninsula or in one of our state’s other diverse regions, timely local access to high-quality services like early-detection breast and cervical cancer screening reduces the impacts of illness as well as health care costs for individuals, their families and the state as a whole. Sexually transmitted infection, or STI, prevention, testing and treatment keep us healthy, able to work, play and care for one another. Low- and no-cost birth control, preconception planning and connection to other comprehensive reproductive and primary health care services help each of us plan the families we want and care for our bodies with autonomy. In Alaska, support for individual reproductive health and community-wide wellness is supported by funding from the nation’s family planning program, known as Title X. Yet, the continuing pattern of underfunding Title X is having a terrible impact on providers’ ability to meet the health care needs of people with low incomes across our state. This safety-net health care program has been flat-funded by Congress for eight years in a row, and providers, like ours, are desperate for emergency funding to keep our clinic doors open.
Since 2003, Title X has been a significant piece in the funding puzzle that allows our staff at Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic to deliver client-centered, confidential reproductive health care and education. Title X helps us offer high-quality care on a sliding fee scale for people who might otherwise lack access to care. In light of perpetual funding shortages, we’ve already been forced to implement agency-wide furlough days. Without other significant support, like community donations and grants, we may be forced to reduce our clinic hours, lay off staff, and even close. We are deeply concerned that this will result in fewer people receiving the preventive care they need, fueling a regional uptick in STIs, cancer rates, unintended teen pregnancies and more.
Providers nationwide are echoing the same call for emergency funding as clinics like KBFPC rebuild our collective ability to offer reproductive health care services following the 2019 Title X program temporary restrictions and unprecedented threats from COVID. As Alaskans, we know the cost of living and doing business in the rural regions of our state is high. Congress is considering emergency funding for Title X which will play a critical role in our organization’s sustainability and the long-term health outcomes of the patients and communities we serve. Their decision will affect each of us, wherever we live in our great state.
Claudia Haines is a longtime resident of Homer and the CEO of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, a community-supported nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care and education for adults and teens on the Southern Kenai Peninsula.
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