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Planned Parenthood’s ‘Equal Access Fund’ interview and trivia night fundraiser

DJ Freddie Fagula holds a feminist icon sculpture in support of Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood has been in the news a lot lately, fighting for there very existence. But even when PP is “completely” funded, there scope is technically limited to the prevention of baby-making. Lots of women take advantage of their medical services, contraceptives and other resources. But not every woman needs the meds or paps because she has sex with men, and while plenty of us fudge the truth in order to get services local PP workers knew that this policy was unfair and wanted to do something about it. That’s why they created the Equal Access Fund.

The Equal Access Fund, established by PPCW, gives low-income lesbians, bisexual women and trans people the same access to affordable annual exams and Pap tests as low-income heterosexual women, and increases access to health care to an underserved population. The fund removes the requirement of seeking contraception to access no-cost annual exams.

I a recent survey in three Portland health centers, front-line staff members estimated that in a single month, six lesbians decided not to access services because they could not afford them and were not eligible for CCare. We estimate that annually 150-175 women in our service area decide not to access services because they cannot afford it.

We also  suspect that man more low-income lesbian, bisexual and trans patients at PPCW request and take home contraception they don’t require because they need help from FPEP to pay for their services This subterfuge puts up additional barriers between patients and their health care providers, making an honest discussion about relationships, sexual behavior and risk factors even more difficult for women who may be already hesitant to speak freely.

Consistently facing financial woes, the completely donor funded EAF is holding a trivia night benefit tomorrow night at Crush (1400 SE Morrison). We got a chance to sit down with some of the organizers on the eve of their big fundraiser to ask a little bit more about the program.

qPDX: Firstly, introduce yourselves to the qPDX audience and tell us your level of involvement with PPCW and EAF.

PP: I’m Amy, one of the organizers of the trivia fundraiser.  I’ve been with Planned Parenthood for 2 1/2 years.  I work in the Call Center and became involved with the Equal Access Fund (EAF) recently.  I became interested in being involved with the EAF committee after experiencing the needs of our patients calling in for services.  Not everyone falls under the guidelines of the federal funding program, and especially with the economy the way it has been the past few years, there is a lot of need for assistance. Seeing this firsthand drove me to realize the importance of funding for people that didn’t qualify for the other programs.

I’m Nicole, the Volunteer Programs Coordinator at PPCW. Before this role, I was fortunate to work in our SE Portland Health Center for 1 1/2 years and experience the daily needs of Portland’s lower-income community first-hand. I saw how appreciative both queer and straight patients were of our services, and was disappointed to learn of the disparity in state funding programs. The creation of a specific fund like EAF is unique to our affiliate of PP, and it’s crucial that we keep it going! I’m excited to be a part of PPCW’s GLBTQQ Committee, and to continue to raise more funding and awareness for the EAF and PPCW’s wish to serve Portland’s queer community.

How’d you come up with the idea for EAF? Why do you feel it is necessary? Who is it for?

Planned Parenthood believes all people should have access to sexual and reproductive health care, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. PPCW’s Equal Access Fund was created to provide funding for annual exams for women and transmen who aren’t covered by state pregnancy-prevention funding but meet the same economic requirements. (This includes the lesbian, queer, and transgender populations). 100% of Equal Access Funds go directly to low-income patients who would otherwise be unable to afford these preventive services. The Equal Access Fund is a resource organized and provided by Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette (PPCW).   The EAF is crucial because, especially in these hard economic times, it allows people access to health care that is potentially lifesaving and that might otherwise be unattainable for them due to financial barriers.

How do you feel about setting this up yourselves? Is it empowering or disheartening? CCare and Take Charge seem like good programs but are you upset that they left out queer women when focusing on providing medical services/contraceptives to low-income women?

It is a great feeling to see the EAF go from an idea to an actual program that helps people.  I would definitely call that empowering.  But it is harsh to realize that there are gaps in federal access to important health care services, but in a positive light, may be beneficial because now we can try to spread the word and hopefully try to take the steps to fill those voids.  I like to think that things like the EAF can start bringing these gaps to public attention and that the exposure might eventually stimulate a bigger change down the road in access to these services.  The CCare and Take Charge programs are fantastic in that they do provide important services to a population in need, but it would certainly be ideal if they would extend their qualifications to satisfy the public regardless of sexual orientation or desire to prevent pregnancy.

How has feedback from the community been? Has it been difficult to get the word out? Are services available to trans individuals and are your health care providers familiar with some of their unique medical needs?

The community has been very supportive and accommodating.  Most businesses were very fast to respond and were very eager to contribute and to help out however possible.  We are lucky to have an incredible network of support in the community.

Planned Parenthood is welcoming to the trans community, and is able to provide basic reproductive health care services to trans individuals. Our clinicians provide services such as STD testing and treatment, chest screenings, Pap tests, and exams to trans individuals. Our staff are knowledgeable about issues specific to the queer community and provide safe, confidential, and supportive environments to these patients.

Why have you chosen a trivia night as a fundraiser? Have you had any other fundraisers?

We chose to do a trivia night fundraiser because it’s fun and is an activity that appeals to a wide audience.  We were striving for a fundraiser that would be accessible and interesting to people from a variety of backgrounds.  This is the first real event fundraiser for the EAF, but we are hoping that if this event is successful there will be more to come.

Many PPCW staff contribute to EAF from each and every paycheck, and have helped to fund the EAF for our patients.

Our Development department works hard to organize creative fundraising events for PPCW as a whole, and we actually have an exciting one called “Festa Sensuale” (complete with live music, gourmet food & drinks, and burlesque!) coming up at BodyVox on April 23, 2011. Learn more or purchase tickets at www.ppcw.org.

What’s in store for the EAF in the future? Is it in danger? Right now it is completely funded by private donation, correct? Are there any plans to try to get any state or federal funding?

The Equal Access Fund is in a great position to serve more patients again in the future. A combination of fundraising events like Trivia Night, grant prospects, and consistent PPCW employee contributions make funding available, but a significant increase in private donors is really needed to launch EAF into a more sustainable future that can, in turn, help more patients.

Until now, the EAF has been almost entirely funded by PPCW employees.  We have received a little bit of private foundation support, but right now we are reliant on private individual donations.  It’s our goal to build awareness around this fund and grow more individual donors who will partner with our employees to better support this fund and build it to a point where it can keep up with demand.  As it stands, there are not enough funds to serve the number of patients in need of our assistance.

1 comment to Planned Parenthood’s ‘Equal Access Fund’ interview and trivia night fundraiser

  • litchick

    Planned Parenthood not only helps people have wanted children, they saved my life! As a young 43 year old, still fertile, a wonderful PA, sent me right to a surgeon when I had a swollen breast. Doc was smart too. He called that night to move up my appointment to the next morning. Turned out I had an often misdiagnosed form of breast cancer called inflammatory carcinoma that grows really fast. I’ll be 61 on my next birthday! 😎

    The words “mother of one ” should appear after the word “fertile” above.
    Haven’t figured out how to insert on my new faux pad.