The only Planned Parenthood in Wyoming is closing its doors after 40 years of operation for financial reasons.
Whitney Phillips, Senior Director of Strategic Communications and Marketing for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, says the decision to close the clinic was not easy.
"It’s no secret that the last few years have been challenging in the reproductive care space in general and as a non-profit provider, we really care so deeply about the health of our patients, but a lot of things have to go into account in order to make our organization be here for the long term and unfortunately that does mean some consolidation sometimes," says Phillips.
The Affordable Care Act allowed more people to have insurance because it expanded Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood clients who got insurance through the ACA used Medicaid to help cover the cost of health services. But Phillips says reimbursement levels are now lower which has, over the years, compounded into some financial stress for the non-profit organization.
In a follow up e-mail statement provided to YPR, Phillips said the following:
The ACA was a historical win and did a lot for our patients, primarily expanding the number of individuals who had insurance. We fully supported this because we believe it is good for individuals and our communities to expand access to care. Health care today is provided in a dynamic and quickly changing environment. Multiple factors -- including reduced patient volume and greater operational efficiencies -- drove the difficult but necessary decision to close the health center. Our focus remains on how best to align our resources to meet the needs of our patients and plan for a sustainable, long-term future.
We saw less than 500 patients there last year, the health center had been assisted in past years by an endowment made by a generous donor and that endowment is coming to a close and after careful and extensive evaluation, PPRM is making some difficult but necessary organizational changes to ensure that we can continue to meet our patients’ needs in both the short and long term. This is necessary for us to position PPRM for long-term sustainability in the communities we serve.
Phillips declined to divulge specific financial details at this time but says Planned Parenthood will continue serving Wyoming in other ways.
"We are going to be expanding our political work in the state of Wyoming as well as some of our education work," said Phillips.
"We have an incredible education department that has actually shifted gears from not only youth face to face but actually educating educators so that we can impact more students in the long haul. And then additionally we will continue to have a strong presence and commitment to the Wyoming abortion fund."
Wyoming’s Planned Parenthood Clinic does not provide abortions but the abortion fund helps women pay for that service elsewhere.
Phillips says that they are working to redirect patients to nearby care-providers. The next nearest Planned Parenthood clinic to the Casper location is over 200-miles away in Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to the Casper Star Tribune, patients will be referred to three nearby providers that take walk-in appointments and accept Medicaid. Those clinics are: Cedars Health, Community Health Center of Central Wyoming and Casper-Natrona County Health Department.
The Casper location's closure on July 21, 2017 will make Wyoming and North Dakota the only two states in the nation without a Planned Parenthood health center.