News from Planned Parenthood Mar Monte
What PPMM Education and Outreach Means to Teens- read now
Saving PPMM Street Outreach in Nevada- read now
New Sites, New Patients!- read now
Profile of Planned Giving: Sarah Roeske- read now
>What PPMM Education and Outreach Means to Teens
Two Silicon Valley teenagers, who we'll call "Amy" and "Michael," recently sent letters thanking PPMM educators for coming to their schools and opening their eyes.
Michael wrote, "You made a very awkward topic for me much more comfortable." Amy wrote, "I thought I already knew a good amount about STDs, but there was much I wasn't aware of. Never think that your efforts to teach us go unnoticed."
Amy and Michael are among tens of thousands of young people who get the facts from PPMM education and outreach programs every year, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide these programs for everyone who needs them. Grant funding has disappeared in some of our service regions even as we have expanded into new counties, and the high demand for our programs continues.
PPMM must depend more than ever on private donations in order to keep essential education and outreach programs that have made a significant contribution to decreasing teen birth rates in California and helped stop the spread of STDs that have become epidemic in some parts of the area we serve.
The statistics show just how cost-effective these programs are. One classroom presentation at a middle school costs $50. One afternoon of after-school outreach for high school students costs $250. A full-day outreach program at a community college or vocational school costs $500. A five-session classroom education series for 350 eighth-grade students at a middle school costs $3,000.
Consider for a moment what it would be like for teenagers like Amy and Michael if they didn't have access to PPMM education programs that dozens of schools have come to depend on as their sole sexuality education curriculum. Think about what it would be like if they didn't have the outreach programs that many public nurses and social workers rely on PPMM to provide in the community:
When they are 11 years old, in elementary school, there would be no specially trained PPMM educators to speak to their class about puberty and the changes they can expect in their bodies.
When they are 13, in middle school, they would have no sexuality education programs and no PPMM educators to answer those questions that are very difficult to ask. This is especially critical because research has shown that when children learn about sexual health in middle school they are far more likely to use condoms and other contraceptives when they become sexually active.
When they are 14-year-old high school freshmen, they wouldn't have PPMM educators to talk to them about healthy relationships, and they wouldn't have trained PPMM peer educators to talk to about sensitive subjects they feel uncomfortable discussing with a parent or another adult.
When they are 16 and headed to the prom a time when, anecdotal evidence shows, many teenagers become sexually active for the first time they wouldn't have PPMM educators coming to their school to talk about unintended pregnancy and STDs. There would be no one to hand out literature written especially for teens, and no one to give them frank advice such as, "Make sure all you 'get' for prom is a corsage." This is especially important in our Central Valley regions which have among California's highest rates of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
Last year, in the Silicon Valley and Alameda County regions alone, PPMM educators made more than 22,000 contacts with youth and parents in programs at schools, community organizations, juvenile hall, and homeless shelters. Throughout the affiliate there were more than 77,000 contacts. Imagine how many kids got the information they needed to protect themselves and maybe even save their lives. However, those numbers may decline sharply in the coming year because of drastically reduced funding.
PPMM is determined to continue bringing vital education programs to the teens and parents who depend on them, but now we must rely on private funding to ensure that we can help more youth stay safe and healthy into young adulthood.
Teens in Carson City and Reno have become accustomed to seeing PPMM educators outside high schools and by the banks of the Truckee River, where kids hang out. It's easy to spot the educators in their hot pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts, carrying neon-bright yellow and blue backpacks full of literature about birth control, testing and treatment for STDs and, of course, condoms. Over the past year, PPMM educators in Nevada have made contact with more than 1,000 young people who simply walked up on the street and asked questions or asked for condoms.
Nevada's Street Outreach which costs $2,500 for an entire month is an example of the kind of innovative and effective education program that will no longer receive public financing and must depend on private funding in order to survive. It is crucial that programs like this not be allowed to disappear.
Nevada has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country, and many schools in the state do not provide comprehensive, accurate sex education. When PPMM educators hit the streets, they are able to talk to teens who might not have any other way of getting the information they need.
"We do a lot of de-bunking myths," said PPMM Nevada educator Chris Daniels. "I've gotten questions about everything from whether you can get pregnant having sex in a jacuzzi or a swimming pool to whether drinking Mountain Dew is birth control because there's something in it that lowers sperm count. I mean, I've heard it all."
Kayla Armbruster, a PPMM Nevada educator who has logged many hours doing Street Outreach, said she frequently hears thoughtful questions from young people who desperately want information and haven't been able to find it at school or at home. She's told them how to put on condoms as well as explained how other contraceptives work and which bodily fluids carry the HIV virus. "I'm often surprised by how candid they can be once we get them talking," she said.
These conversations off-campus, by the river, at the mall make it clear how important it is that programs like this find a way to keep going even as funding for them becomes more and more scarce. Those roving educators in pink t-shirts with blue and yellow backpacks need to be out there, answering questions and being a resource for the entire community.
Just in time for the rollout of health care reform, PPMM has opened three new or expanded health centers in 2013 to serve thousands of new patients. The centers are a reflection of the great diversity throughout PPMM's California service area, and the response has been terrific so far. They are:
Bakersfield: The new, significantly largerhealth center opened in July, almost tripling in size from the center at the former Bakersfield site. There are now 14 exam rooms, more than double the number at the old center.
To meet patient demand for reproductive health services including breast and cervical cancer screening, contraception, well woman care and STD testing and treatment for women and men there are three new part-time clinicians, and a full-time registered nurse also can dispense contraception to patients.
"We have been looking to expand in Bakersfield for more than 10 years, and we finally found the perfect site," said Center Manager Tammy Rutledge. "We've gotten so many positive comments from the community. People love this new center."
Bakersfield has some of California's highest rates of teen pregnancy and STD cases, so there was a great need for a larger community health center. Many patients are currently uninsured or work part-time and don't have adequate insurance.
"A lot of people fall through the cracks in this area," Tammy said. "And we are here to help with that."
San Mateo: PPMM's expanded health center in San Mateo opened in July for five days a week, and it has become an important part of the community since PPMM began serving San Mateo County two years ago. In September the center added primary care for adults and children to its range of services, including vaccines, cholesterol testing and management of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.The center recently began providing medical abortion services, and it is the only abortion provider in the San Mateo region.
Center Manager Jennifer Sarchet says there also has been a strong demand for STD testing and treatment at the center by patients who have their own private insurance coverage through their jobs but prefer the confidential services of Planned Parenthood. "These patients know they can trust us for confidentiality and to be non-judgmental," Sarchet said. "We hear it often."
Because San Mateo County is an affluent area, many patients have incomes that are too high to be eligible for Medi-Cal coverage, but they are entrepreneurs or self-employed and don't have insurance through an employer. These patients will likely qualify for the new state health insurance exchange, Covered California, that begins enrolling new patients in October.
"We will have trained staff here to help patients enroll and guide them through this new system," Jennifer said. "We also hope to enroll a lot of younger patients who may not know that they can get this coverage."
West Oakland: On a recent weekday afternoon at PPMM's new health center in West Oakland, there were more than a half-dozen patients in the reception area most of them young men. Everyone was intently watching Samuel L. Jackson in "Coach Carter," the movie playing on the TV opposite the reception desk.
"We have made this center a real part of the neighborhood in a short time," said Site Supervisor Joslyn Moore. "We get a lot of men coming in here for STD testing. They know we're here and they're glad. Also, they love the movies we play in the waiting room!"
Since the center opened in April, with four exam rooms, two counseling rooms and a testing laboratory, the first trickle of patients has turned into a steady stream. Already, there have been more than 2,000 visits, and demand keeps growing. The center provides reproductive health services, including colposcopies, and in September it expanded its hours to provide services six days a week. Among the most commonly requested services are well woman exams.
"A lot of patients we see haven't had a well woman exam in a very long time," Joslyn said. "People are really glad we're here."
Sarah Roeske is a researcher of geology who teaches at U.C. Davis, and, as a scientist, she loves data. It was the hard data that convinced her to name PPMM as a beneficiary in her will. "Look, when it comes to being lean and efficient, the numbers don't lie," Sarah said. "PPMM is clearly one of the best-run Planned Parenthoods in the country, and it helps so many women."
A longtime donor to PPMM, she learned from her grandmother, one of the very few female obstetrician-gynecologists in the 1920s, the importance of supporting women's health care. When Sarah and her husband, who have no children, were making their estate plans they decided to make a bequest to PPMM. She said she is especially impressed by PPMM's education programs and wants to make sure they are funded into the future. "You look at a program like Teen Success, how it sets these girls on the right path and then you see all the ripple effects that has for everyone in the family," she said. "That's the kind of impact that really lasts."
Sarah wants to be sure that her commitment to Planned Parenthood and women's health also lasts after she's gone: "I know it's money that will be wisely spent."