Heartland board votes to apply for family-planning services grant in anticipation of taking over from health department
photo by: Courtesy of Heartland Community Health Center
The board of directors for Lawrence health care provider Heartland Community Health Center voted Tuesday night to proceed with submitting an application to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for a grant for family-planning service providers.
Heartland CEO Julie Branstrom informed the Journal-World of the move in a press release following the board’s Tuesday night meeting. Family-planning — or Title X — services include contraceptive services, pregnancy testing, screenings for breast and cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. If Heartland receives the Title X grant, it’ll take over for Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health as the county’s grant-holding service provider.
“Heartland Community Health Center is an ideal home for the future of Title X family planning services in Douglas County,” Branstrom said in the release. “Heartland is not only poised to take on the grant, but the organization is also best suited to provide comprehensive, patient-centered and integrated care to patients receiving Title X services regardless of income and insurance status.”
Branstrom confirmed in the press release that the step is in response to conversations between Heartland, the health department and LMH Health regarding the future of family-planning services in Douglas County in recent months. Health department director Dan Partridge first spoke with the Journal-World about those ongoing conversations in late 2022.
Moving away from offering family-planning services at the health department clinic was a deeply unpopular decision among nursing staff there, so much so that multiple nurses who quit last year told the Journal-World that it was the specific reason they resigned.
The Douglas County Commission also didn’t seem very keen on the decision when the health department informed county leaders of the plan last month. Concerns from commissioners ranged from why such a change is taking place when Partridge plans to retire in June to whether adding more patient load at Heartland, already a health care hub for low-income folks’ other services, would lead to the clinic being overburdened and make it harder for folks to get same-day services.
The next week, Partridge signaled to the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Board that the health department intended to move forward with the plan anyway.
According to the release from Heartland, the clinic already offers nearly all of the services funded through the Title X grant, and actually exceeds the number of patients served through the grant annually at the health department. Last year, for example, Heartland performed 565 well-woman exams, compared with 477 served by the health department.
Branstrom also provided some demographic information that addresses one concern from commissioners — that patients without insurance or in tighter financial situations would see a lapse in service with a different provider. Per the release from Heartland, seven out of 10 folks served through Title X across the state are uninsured, and more than half live below the federal poverty level. Heartland is a Federally Qualified Health Center, meaning it serves residents with access to care regardless of their ability to pay. Last year, Heartland served 2,624 uninsured Douglas County residents.