State Funding Cuts Hit Planned Parenthood

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(APN) ATLANTA — Funding cuts by the State of Georgia and the redirection of funds have left Planned Parenthood of Georgia (PPGA) scrambling to make up for a lost family planning contract worth $420,000 with Fulton County, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

PPGA operates five family planning clinics throughout Georgia, including one in downtown Atlanta, which serves about 7,000 women per year.

PPGA has already had to lay off staff and has increased its sliding scale for consumer fees. Front line and educational staff have been let go. One person let go was staff member Heather Holloway in Savannah.

The sliding scale which only had five categories now only has three, Leola Reis, External Affairs for PPGA told APN. This means additional burdens in some cases or lack of access in others, for low-income women and those without insurance.

“Our contract was terminated as of September 30th. It’s left a terrible hole in our budget. It’s a contract we’ve had in one form or another for 35 years,” Kay Scott, President of PPGA, told APN.

The funds, under the federal Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) program–which the State had previously been providing to counties to contract with agencies like PPGA–have been redirected to Georgia’s Department of Family and Children’s Services.

“It’s just such poor planning by the state and so short-sighted in a public health sense,” Scott said, of the State’s leaving PPGA with no contract.

“The Governor proposed cuts to human service programs. What resulted was a 6 to 10% cut. Family planning ended up taking a 34% cut, which is huge,” Reis said.

What the State used to allocate for family planning was $22 million, but this was cut by $7.5 million for 2009 and $10 million for 2010, Reis said.

With the loss of the Fulton County contract, PPGA will continue its programs with reduced staff and will be left with donations, grants, and increased client fees, in order to operate.

Previously, the funds for Fulton County’s contract came from a program called Title X (ten). “Apparently, some place in the past year or two, they decided to move money internally, so instead of Title X, we had TANF dollars,” Scott said.

The TANF funds, as stated earlier, have now been moved to DFCS. Meanwhile, the Title X dollars PPGA previously received have been “parcelled out all over the state,” Scott said.

PPGA will be reaching out to Georgia legislators to come up with a creative solution to address this funding shortfall which has resulted from the apparent game of musical chairs that Georgia has been playing with respect to funding social services.

“We’re going to start meeting with different legislators and getting them up to speed,” Reis said.

State Sen. Nan Orrock (D), a champion for pro-choice issues, has expressed concern about this issue, but did not immediately return a call placed by APN.

“The spiral effect is just devastating for women of Georgia,” Reis said. “Publicly funded family planning services help women avoid the pregnancies they don’t want, and help them plan the pregnancies they do want.”

“The impact is felt by the most vulnerable women in the state,” Reis said.

“We have very high low birth weight babies in Georgia,” Reis said.

“In the State of Georgia, we have the third highest rate of syphilis cases, we’re 7th or 8th in teen pregnancies. If you improve health before pregnancy, it makes a difference in the lives of the women and babies alike,” Reis said.

Spending money up-front on family planning saves the government in Medicaid birth costs down the road, PPGA argues.

Reis cited a study by the Guttmacher Institute, which reported that for every dollar spent to publicly funded family planning, $4.02 is saved in Medicaid birth costs.

“Georgia helped prevent 46,000 unintended pregnancies last year,” Reis estimated.

Pregnant women who cannot afford maternity care “would become part of Medicaid services,” Reis said. “The costs are higher than prevention services.”

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable is matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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