Fate of Ravalli County family planning services remains in question


Fate of Ravalli family planning services remains unclear (9-17-13)

MISSOULA, Mont. - On September 30, the Ravalli County Health Department's family planning services are set to end, and opposition is mounting. On Monday, residents packed a special Health Board meeting to voice their opinion, many explaining to health officials why the services are important.

Commissioners voted earlier this month 3-2 to reject $50,000 in federal Title X money that would have kept the services intact. Most of the commissioners object to requirements that underage clients can receive services without their parents finding out.

Earlier this month, Suzy Foss explained to NBC Montana that she feels most of the services provided are "wonderful," but she wasn't on board with the non-notification issue.

"It's just a matter of not accepting those federal dollars," said Foss earlier this month, "adding to our debt, and putting it on our children, and getting between parents and their children."

One commissioner tells NBC Montana that the Ravalli County Attorney's Office is looking at ways the Board of Health could access the funds without the commissioner's go-ahead. Montana Code Annotated may prove to be crucial in the discussion. Under Montana Code Annotated" "(2) Local boards of health may: 
(a) accept and spend funds received from a federal agency, the state, a school district, or other persons or entities…"

On Tuesday, NBC Montana sat down with Representative Edward Greef, who says he tried to prevent title X funding from going toward certain family planning services at the state level, but if he were commissioner, he's not sure if he would vote the same way, because while he opposes certain things like tax-dollar-funded contraception, he feels he wouldn't want to put other services he supports at stake.

He says commissioners shouldn't have had to deal with an "all or nothing" package.

NBC Montana also spoke with one woman who provided a personal anecdote at Monday's meeting, about how she relied on a Missoula Planned Parenthood's services to obtain STD testing, she says, after her ex-husband cheated on her. She came back clean, and feels axing Ravalli County's own services is like closing the door to one of the only places she was able to go.

The Ravalli County Board of Health has scheduled a meeting to weigh their options going forward. That meeting will be held at 3:30 pm on Wednesday.  Ravalli County Commissioners will meet on Friday to discuss the issue at 8:00am.

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