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Planned Parenthood health centers in rural and conservative areas are the “boots on the ground” in terms of serving multiple communities. Because of physical distance barriers, this often leaves these communities underserved.   
   
Communities and areas like these exist throughout the country. In underserved communities, health centers must be creative and community-minded to overcome access barriers.  
   
Planned Parenthood’s Port Angeles health center is one such example; It sits on the northern coast of Washington’s Olympic peninsula. That health center, and the one in Shelton, are the only ones on the peninsula, so patients who live on the Western side of the peninsula must travel 100 to 200 miles get to a Planned Parenthood.  
   
As a result, Planned Parenthood health center staff and patients must get creative. For instance, at the Port Angeles, Washington health center, manager Denise Wells explained that many patients travel long distances for appointments.  
   
“The Sequim clinic closed in 2017, and our Forks clinic closed many years ago. When the Forks clinic closed, it left a large Spanish-speaking community without a nearby Planned Parenthood,” she explained.   
   
“Because of the community’s fear of ICE, public transportation wasn’t an option, and not all patients had vehicles.” She explained that patients from Forks began to form carpools for the three-hour drive to Planned Parenthood, and the health center responded with flexibility to book their appointment times together. “Working together... we were able to find a solution to their need.”  
   
Wells added that the Port Angeles Health Center also has a good working relationship with the Bogachiel Clinic and the Forks Community Hospital, coordinating care for patients from Forks, and all over the Olympic peninsula. Each organization works closely with an interpreter to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients.  
   
“When health centers, providers, patients and their communities are spread far out, it can make everything a little tougher, but it’s not impossible,” she said.  
   
Telehealth is one way rural and remote health centers can serve patients without placing the burden of long travel on the person in need.  
   
In current times, with the added complication of coronavirus precautions, many patients are using Planned Parenthood’s direct-to-patient telehealth app.  With this app, patients can interact with staff and clinicians via a screen from anywhere on their cell phone, tablet or computer. For social distancing purposes, direct-to-patient telemedicine is ideal, but it can also be a solution in areas where physical distance is a barrier.     
   
Wells noted for many patients, Planned Parenthood is their only source of health care, and many communities are in danger of going without.  
   
You can support programs like telemedicine expansion and resources for rural health centers by donating here. 

Tags: Access to Health Care, this_is_health_care