By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
“The county’s [two public] clinics refer patients in need of an abortion to us,” says Kight. “So by their own rules, they would not be eligible for tobacco-settlement revenue.”
* * *
Jason Warner is talking about talking about sex.
“A lot of adults, we think that a teachable moment is, ‘Hey, sit down here; I need to talk to you.’ And we kind of make this lecture out of it,” Warner says to a group of professional counselors, therapists, mentors and educators on the sunny afternoon of June 25 at Planned Parenthood’s offices in Orange. “That’s one of the most uncomfortable situations, from what I hear from young people, to deal with. And it shuts them out.
“One of my favorite approaches is to use TV,” he continues. “After seeing Flavor of Love, or Flava Flav, whatever it’s called, where you have 10 women all flaunting for this one guy, ask, ‘Is that realistic? What did you think about that?’”
A laugh ripples through the class. Warner, a handsome health-education specialist in his thirties whose Trinidadian parents also work in the medical field, is giving his “Train the Trainer” workshop to professionals from the county HCA, UCI Women’s Center, the UCI Health Education Center, Irvine Unified School District, the Child Abuse Prevention Center, Juvenile Hall, Cal State Fullerton, the Nurse Family Partnership program and others. The group is curious and attentive, scribbling notes as Warner talks, laughing with him and throwing out their responses to questions he jabs them with about kids who meet online, sex education for handicapped teens, abstinence, lubricants, STDs and everything else that falls under the umbrella of the day-long workshop that Planned Parenthood has been giving for the past nine years throughout the county—thanks to TSR funds.
Though the session will have plenty of laughs—including during a spirited, educational game of Sex Bingo—it is a bittersweet afternoon for Warner: This is the last Planned Parenthood health-education workshop to be paid for by a TSR grant. The HCA’s new policy prohibits all community clinics applying for TSR funds from using the money for group educational workshops. The new policy restricts the grants for use solely for direct medical care between a medical professional and a patient. Planned Parenthood is now looking for ways to fund future workshops—including possibly charging for them.
A county employee asks what exactly is happening with the TSR funding to Planned Parenthood. “Unfortunately,” Warner explains, “they decided to cut funding for community clinics for health education.” A small slip of paper tucked into the group’s packets explains further: “Our annual grant of almost $300,000 helped to sponsor events like this one as well as comprehensive sex-education classroom instruction across Orange County, including at-risk and underserved youth.” The group is perplexed. County employees want to know how it’s possible for the county to ask that they participate in these kinds of training sessions while cutting off the money to pay for them.
“This is exactly what we do in a high-school classroom, or for nurses, or for the Health Care Agency,” says Kight of such health-education workshops, which also include sessions with people who work at federally funded Women Infants and Children (WIC) program centers around the county. “This kind of education that extends far beyond our doors and into the community is so much of what we do—and is now no longer funded by the county.”
Planned Parenthood hasn’t accepted the county’s sudden rejection of its services without a fight. After all, the organization has been intertwined with the county for decades; in 1965, it received $30,000 from the Board of Supervisors and opened the first outpatient, family-planning clinic at the Orange County Medical Center. Clinics sprang up throughout the county, with the support of supervisors and HCA in the following decades.
In the mid-1990s, following the county’s massive bankruptcy, several public health clinics were shuttered. Planned Parenthood was asked on several occasions by HCA to absorb those clinics’ family-planning patients, who included men and women seeking contraception, OB/GYN exams and prenatal care.
Planned Parenthood saw 75,000 patients in Orange County through the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30—up 20 percent from the previous year. The majority of those visits—57 percent—were for contraception and well-woman OB/GYN exams. Only 7.1 percent were for abortion services.
Planned Parenthood’s management expresses frustration that its services in the county, as well as its long relationship with HCA, have been ignored throughout the current controversy. “Our grant through the Coalition of Clinics for the tobacco funds was done exactly the same way all the other clinics applied for funding. There was no effort, I think, on anyone’s part, to hide who these clinics were,” says Jon Dunn, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties. “We always provided reproductive-health education with the funds, and we did so, in part, because I anticipated that, at some point, someone might decide that they weren’t happy with Planned Parenthood getting the funds, and I wanted to be able to take the position that everything we’re doing with these funds is preventative in nature and is unrelated specifically to abortion except that it prevents unintended pregnancies.”