News Column

Futures Family Planning Clinic ramping up service

September 4, 2014

By Dann Denny, Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.



Sept. 04--After an uncharacteristic couple of years, the Futures Family Planning Clinic in Bloomington looks to get back on track and serve increasing numbers of clients.

The number of visits dropped 14 percent from 2011 to 2012 and another 12 percent from 2012 to 2013, but officials say the dips were due to decreased nurse practitioner hours both years, the installation of an electronic medical record system in 2012 and the move to a new site in 2013.

"Last year, we had to reduce the patient schedule while repairs and remodeling were being done at our new location," said Penny Caudill, administrator of the Monroe County Health Department, the agency that operates the clinic. In March 2013, the clinic relocated from South Walnut Street to its current home in the Health Services Building on West Seventh Street.

Also hurting the clinic's numbers were the bursting of water pipes last winter, operating one nurse practitioner short for as long as nine months and converting from paper to electronic record keeping.

"The transition to electronic medical records was difficult," Caudill said. "Visits took longer as our staff learned a new system, and there was some duplication early on while we learned. Our schedule was reduced by about half in the beginning and then gradually increased as staff learned and adjusted."

The two consecutive years of reduced client visits reversed what had been a strong and steady climb in client volume -- from 1,566 annual visits in 2007 to 2,758 in 2011 -- a 76 percent increase.

The clinic offers women such services as annual exams, pap smears, breast exams, pelvic exams, and pregnancy testing and referral. It offers men and women testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and provides free condoms. The clinic's nurse practitioners also provide birth control supplies.

"We also do a lot of educating -- covering things like smoking, nutrition, birth control counseling and pregnancy counseling," Sturbaum said. "We make referrals to the (Volunteers in Medicine) clinic and community physicians and mental health practitioners for psychological counseling, mammograms and blood pressure."

This year, the Indiana Family Health Council in Indianapolis is funding the clinic with $250,484, which represents 91 percent of the clinic's $275,589 budget and covers such things as staff salaries, supplies and malpractice insurance. The rest of the budget is funded by patient fees, local grants, patient donations, insurance and Medicaid billing.

"We don't require donations from patients, but we do accept them," said Barb Sturbaum, the clinic's manager. "Now, that we have a debit/credit card machine, we are getting more donations, because most young people don't carry cash, but they do carry debit and credit cards."

Caudill said the Family Health Council wants the clinic to see at least 1,279 individuals a year. The clinic has exceeded that benchmark three out of the past four years -- falling slightly short in 2013 when it served 1,259 unique clients.

"But the size of our grant from the council is not tied only to client volume," she said. "They look at the big picture, taking into consideration the challenges we face and whether we're following their protocols and what our client satisfaction surveys look like. Our funding from them has been pretty steady for several years."

The clinic is staffed by a clinic manager who makes $31,174, a licensed practical nurse who makes $34,818 and two nurse practitioners who share a full-time position and are paid a little more than $41 an hour. There is also a Spanish interpreter who can be seen by appointment only.

Sturbaum said the clinic primarily targets low-income, uninsured or under-insured people. The clinic serves men and women regardless of their income or residency, though most of the clients are girls or women, and last year, 90 percent of the clinic's patients were from Monroe County. The clinic can bill Medicaid and insurance companies for services.

People with incomes less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level receive services free; people with incomes between 101 and 250 percent of the poverty level are charged according to a sliding fee scale based on their income; and people making more than 250 percent of the poverty level are supposed to pay the full cost of the services. Last year, 81 percent of the clinic's clients received services for free, 18 percent paid partial fees and a little more than 1 percent paid full fees.

Caudill cites a Guttmacher Institute study that found that in 2010, every $1 invested to help women avoid pregnancies they they did not want saved $5.68 in Medicaid expenditures that otherwise would have been needed.

People wishing to use the clinic should call 812-349-7343 to make an appointment. Walk-ins are only seen as the schedule and situation allows. The average office visit, from the time the client walks in the door until they leave, is about an hour.

The clinic's new home in the Health Services Building is about the same size as the former one, but has an improved reception area that affords more client privacy, a much larger waiting room, more storage space that protects inventory from water damage or theft, and a more private lab area. It also has access to a staff restroom, conference room and flex office -- sharing those spaces with the health department.

"Having all the health department's services in one building gives us greater efficiency," Sturbaum said. "It also gives our clients way more confidentiality."

Futures Family Planning Clinic

LOCATION: Lower level of Health Services Building, 119 W. Seventh St.

PHONE: 812-349-7343.

HOURS:

--Monday, 8 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

--Tuesday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., 3:30-7 p.m.

--Wednesday, 8 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

--Thursday, 8 a.m.-noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

--Friday, 8 a.m.-noon.

___

(c)2014 the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.)

Visit the Herald-Times (Bloomington, Ind.) at www.heraldtimesonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Herald-Times (Bloomington, IN)


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