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Southwest Michigan Planned Parenthood offices preparing for uncertain future, due to state funding cuts (MLive.com)

Published December 28, 2011, by MLive.com

By Ted Yoakum

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Published: 12.28.11| Updated: 12.28.11

THREE RIVERS — Reduced state and private funding has forced the country’s largest provider of reproductive health care to close several state offices, including three in southern Michigan.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Three Rivers and Coldwater ceased operations last week; on Oct. 10, a Planned Parenthood clinic in Sturgis closed its doors.

The closings are part of the agency’s efforts to remain afloat in Michigan, following a five-year decline in state funding.

“We’re in a tight spot,” said Lori Lamerand, chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of South Central Michigan, which is headquartered in Kalamazoo. “It’s with great sorrow that we make these decisions.”

The three clinics, which treated nearly 1,560 patients this year, also were underused in comparison to clinics located in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek, Lamerand said.

“The math just didn’t work,” she said, estimating that Planned Parenthood will save nearly $30,000 in annual operating costs with the closings.

Officials are encouraging patients of the shuttered clinics to visit the agency’s Kalamazoo or Battle Creek clinics, which will continue to provide a full level of services, such as cancer screenings, pap tests, breast-health services and birth control.

Since 2006, Lansing has slashed funding by nearly half to Michigan’s Title X program, a family planning fund that Planned Parenthood relies on heavily to pay for its services, Lamerand said. While federal funding has remained steady, a slight rise in operating expenses during the same period has exacerbated the cuts in funding.

“Facing these kinds of cuts on an annual basis has forced us to optimize our operations,” Lamerand said.

“There’s less money to go around, no doubt about it,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that the poor among us are the ones who are hit the hardest by these cuts.”

Two of the organization’s other main sources of revenue, patient payments and private donations, have also dropped in recent years, forcing the agency to re-evaluate its business model.

“We all have to do less with more, that’s been our motto for more than a decade,” Lamerand said.

Planned Parenthood has been a frequent target of pro-life advocates, who have criticized the abortion services the organization provides at some of its clinics.

“It’s regrettable that people don’t understand the breadth of services we provide to underprivileged women and families,” Lamerand said.

“A very small part of our work is related to abortion services; 97 percent of care prevents the other 3 percent of the work we do.”

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