Planned Parenthood to open in Ferndale next week (Daily Tribune)

Published March 26, 2012, by the Daily Tribune.

By Catherine Kavanaugh.

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Published: 03.26.12| Updated: 03.28.12

FERNDALE – The only Planned Parenthood office in Oakland County will open next Monday at a former medical clinic on Woodward Avenue north of Nine Mile Road.

The organization will offer annual exams, cancer screenings, breast health services, birth control, STD tests and treatment, some HIV tests and educational programs for men and women in the former Primacare building, 23338 Woodward.

“These are our core services and they make up 97 percent of what we do,” said Desiree Cooper, director of community and media relations. “We won’t do abortions at this site.”

Planned Parenthood used to have an office in Southfield but it closed more than six years ago following a round of mergers and new office openings.

“Oakland County became a reproductive health care desert and that’s not something we were happy about,” Cooper said.

The group identified south Oakland and the northern I-75 corridor as areas where it wanted a presence based on an assessment by the Michigan Department of Community Health, Cooper said. Planned Parenthood bought a building at I-75 and Opdyke Road in Auburn Hills in 2010 but opposition led to legal snags that are still working through the courts.

“We don’t want to wait to serve people who need help,” Cooper said.

The proposed Ferndale facility didn’t need any variances or special approvals but Planned Parenthood representatives will attend the City Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. tonight to introduce themselves and their services.

“This will be their public debut in a way,” Mayor David Coulter said. “Not to say there won’t be people who object but Ferndale is a pretty progressive community that understands the need for organizations like Planned Parenthood. About 90 percent of their clients are uninsured so it is definitely needed.”

Oakland County has the second largest number of low-income women without health insurance in Michigan, according to County Commissioner Craig Covey (D-Ferndale).

“The alternative is much higher health care costs in emergency rooms and for advanced disease that would be borne by us all,” Covey said in a statement.

“More than half of all pregnancies in Michigan are unplanned, and two thirds of those births are then publically funded, costing our state taxpayers $282 million annually. Each one dollar spent on preventing unplanned pregnancies saves more than six dollars in local, state, and federal Medicaid costs for maternal and infant care in the first year alone.”

Covey blames “religious ultra-conservatives” of keeping Planned Parenthood out of Oakland County and attempting nationally to limit access to birth control and eliminate funding to the group.

Last December an Oakland County Circuit Court judge said the organization could move forward with its Auburn Hills clinic but the decision was appealed by the owners of a nearby hotel with support from Citizens for a Pro-Life Society.

“We sued to have a judicial decree that we are legally entitled to operate there. We knew that we were but we wanted to quiet the opposition,” Cooper said. “We won and they appealed.”

The Ferndale health center will be the 17th facility of Planned Parenthood Mid and South Michigan (PPMSM). Last year nearly 67,000 patients from Benton Harbor to Detroit were seen on a sliding-fee scale. About 75 percent of the patients are women between the ages of 20 and 40.

“We will assess whether we will open a facility in Auburn Hills when the legal process is final,” said PPMSM CEO Lori Lamerand, adding that in the meantime, they will be open in Ferndale.

The city has been home to the FernCare Free Clinic since August 2010 but it doesn’t provide OB/GYN services. Ann Heler, president of the FernCare board, said Planned Parenthood will fill the gap.

“While people are playing politics with reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood continues to push forward to help those who need it most,” Heler said in a statement.

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