South Whidbey gets Planned Parenthood clinic

"About the clinicSouth Whidbey Planned Parenthood Clinic will be open from 3 to 7 p.m. the second and fourth Monday of every month. It is located at 11247 Highway 525. Walk-ins are welcome or appointments can be made by calling 321-4455. Fees are based on a sliding scale. South Whidbey residents will soon have a clinic for the full range of reproductive health care -- from pap smears, breast exams and birth control to testing for pregnancy and infectious diseases.A Planned Parenthood Clinic is scheduled to open Monday, Nov. 8 in Clinton in the Whidbey General Hospital South building, where it is renting an office. The clinic was simply a dream in 1995 when Bernita M. Sanstad, Planned Parenthood Clinic manager in Oak Harbor and Lynnwood, and Carol McNeil, Nursing Administrator at the Island County Health Department, brought together a group of women to look at the problems associated with teen pregnancy and sexuality. The Teen Pregnancy Coalition was born.The women, all of whom work in the social and health services fields and have an interest in youth, set three major goals: Establish a Planned Parenthood satellite on South Whidbey; develop a peer education program; and develop a time and place for teens to meet and learn about sexuality. “We’re very excited about the clinic. It’s the first step in addressing some very real issues and problems,” Sanstad said. “Teens have been telling us they need a place to go that is confidential. The nearest clinic is in Oak Harbor, which isn’t convenient for Southend residents.” She added: “Information and education are protection. The more our youth know and understand about their bodies the more they are able to protect themselves.” Sanstad encourages teens to bring their parents with them, but stressed, “Visits to Planned Parenthood Clinics are confidential.”Island County Health Department statistics indicate that teen pregnancy -- between ages 15 and 17 -- is on the increase in Island County. In 1985 there were 38 reported teen pregnancies; there were 40 in 1990; and 47 in 1995.The goal of Planned Parenthood clinics is to offer preventive health care as well as reproductive care. Sanstad said the clinic will offer breast exams and teach young women how to do self-examinations as a preventive measure against breast cancer and offer regular pap smears to check for cervical cancer. The clinic staff will also provide condoms, and do pregnancy testing, prenatal care, adoption and abortion referral and counseling. In addition, the clinic will test for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.Coalition member Kathy McLaughlin described the clinic as “an important addition” for South Whidbey youth. “They haven’t had a place to go for advice, and if they are unable to get it at home then they are getting from peers,” she said.McLaughlin added that she was pleased with the composition of the Teen Pregnancy Coalition group. “There were all different points of view including those who wanted to promote abstinence,” she said.The new clinic is being funded with an $18,500 grant from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and will be staffed by manager Bernita Sanstad; Diana Putney, advanced registered nurse practitioner; and Toni Marthaller, public health nurse for Department of Social and Health Services Family Planning. “The grant from the Planned Parenthood Federation is a good start for us, but we are looking for more money,” Sanstad said.The first project sponsored by the Teen Pregnancy Coalition was a course on life skills for adolescent girls. The successful 10-week class called Project Empower was funded by the Soroptimists and the Whidbey General Hospital Foundation.“We were pleased with the results. If we had the funding we would like to offer the class again, which is designed to help girls develop self-esteem and successful life and problem solving skills,” Stanstad said. Some members of the Teen Pregnancy Coalition include McLaughlin, representing Island County/Stanwood Public Health and Safety Network; Marthaller, of DSHS; Miriam Raabe, South Whidbey School District nurse; Karen Grossman, Health Department educator; and Sanstad, Planned Parenthood of Western Washington."

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