Planned Parenthood’s Heber clinic closes its doors | ParkRecord.com

Planned Parenthood’s Heber clinic closes its doors

Organization cites rising costs of real estate, political climate as reasons

After nearly 30 years of serving Summit and Wasatch County residents, Planned Parenthood's Heber clinic permanently closed its doors last week, citing the rising costs of real estate and the current political climate as reasons behind the decision.

For more than a year, the Planned Parenthood of Heber has struggled with rent, changes in healthcare and the overlay of politics, according to Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) CEO Karrie Galloway.

"We were unwilling to make a quick decision and figured we'd see whether we could sustain real estate, but now we have come up with what, we thought, was the most sound decision for Planned Parenthood, which is to stop providing from brick and mortar," Galloway said in a phone interview with The Park Record from Washington, D.C. "I can say it is with a heavy heart, but it just came to pass."

The Heber Clinic, located at 728 West, 100 South, suite #1, closed its doors on May 31. Two white sheets of paper are currently posted in the window of the clinic notifying patients of the decision and providing them with contact information for other providers in the area.

"We have tried to make arrangements to figure out how our patients would get their needs met and we have talked with other providers in the community, including the People's Health Clinic and local health departments, who will provide some commodities for them," Galloway said.

In 2016, Planned Parenthood's Heber clinic served 420 patients, including 382 women and 38 men, according to Katrina Barker, PPAU communications and marketing coordinator. A majority of the women seen were younger than 30.

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Barker said 1,324 birth control units were sold, 90 pregnancy tests performed and 380 screenings for sexually transmitted diseases were conducted. She said 40 percent of the patients were considered at or below the poverty level and were predominantly white. Approximately 108 patients identified themselves as Hispanic.

Beth Armstrong, executive director of the People's Health Clinic, said the community-supported clinic has agreed to take on uninsured patients who were utilizing Planned Parenthood's services, which were offered on a sliding-fee schedule.

"We will provide them with the services that Planned Parenthood was providing, as far a birth control," Armstrong said. "They can come and make an appointment and make us their health home. We will make it as easy for them as possible and it will be no cost to them, as it was in the past."

Carolyn Rose, Summit County Health Department's nursing director, said the Health Department offers basic women's health services similar to Planned Parenthood, including annual pap smears, birth control and STD testing.

However, she said the Health Department operates under different funding and does not provide a sliding-fee schedule. The Health Department is also unable to prescribe birth control to anyone younger than 18 without parental consent.

While Planned Parenthood has been a part of the community since the late 1980s, the clinic only moved to Heber in 2013. Rose said the Health Department did see a "small increase" in the number of patients it served who were seeking those services and anticipates a similar increase.

Armstrong, Rose and Galloway all acknowledged the closure of the clinic will create challenges for young women and those who have no transportation.

"We have a strong presence with our teen council in the Park City school system for those young women and we have strong relationships with other non-government organizations in the Park City area to make sure that the needs of the community are still being met," Galloway said.

PPAU will continue operating eight brick-and-mortar clinics throughout the state, including several in the Salt Lake area. PPAU also has contracts with rural providers and offers many services through mail and over the telephone.

But, Galloway admitted closing the Heber clinic is indicative of the larger challenges that are facing the organization nationwide.

"We have an administration in Washington that is not very friendly to women or our healthcare. They have plans for us, none of which are good," Galloway said. "But we want to ensure our patients that it is important to continue to realize their family-planning goals. We want to make sure you know who to call if you have a problem. You are not alone, even though we are not in the neighborhood any longer."

For more information about services that are offered through the People's Health Clinic in Park City, go to http://peopleshealthclinic.org/. Visit http://www.summitcountyhealth.org/contact-us/ for the operating hours and contact information for the Health Department's three offices in the county or go to https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-utah to find the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic.