By Lily Firth
Planned Parenthood has been helping students at the College with their reproductive health concerns for the past 40 years, until now. As of this year, Planned Parenthood no longer provides services to the College community, and Student Health Services has taken on the responsibilities of providing students with accessible reproductive health care on campus.
At SHS, students can make an appointment to see a clinician for reproductive health care services on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Since Planned Parenthood is a private company, students used to have to pay fees to visit the office. Now that the College is in charge of its own reproductive health services, there is no longer a fee for an office visit.
Students can also now have their prescriptions refilled on days that are not technically appointment days. Prior to the change in the College’s reproductive health care options for students, if students went to SHS with a reproductive emergency on a day that Planned Parenthood was not there, they were out of luck — but that is no longer the case with the College’s new care offerings.
Planned Parenthood is an established health organization that provides contraceptives, screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections and guidance through pregnancies. The organization also educates young people on health and wellness topics such as how to get a safe abortion and what different types of reproductive cancers exist.
For years, Planned Parenthood was available three days a week for students to make appointments. Due to the lack of staff and a smaller inflow of patients relative to other locations, Planned Parenthood said that they could only provide services at the College once a week without losing money, according to Janice Vermeychuk, the director of Student Health Services.
There are 17 Planned Parenthood locations in New Jersey. Out of these 17 sites, the organization has what is called its “big six” locations that are seated in New Jersey’s largest cities. Whenever a “big six” site needs a nurse clinician, it gets a replacement from one of its other smaller locations that do not have as much of a high demand in patients.
Since locations in Camden and Trenton are Planned Parenthood’s top priorities in New Jersey, the nurse clinician at the College was pulled away from her position here to meet the higher demand of patients in larger cities.
Vermeychuk was disappointed that Planned Parenthood had to cut down its availability, since many students seek reproductive health services, but would have difficulty getting an appointment if the office was open only one day of the week.
“We, as a college, have a priority to provide reproductive services for the students, and as of this year, Planned Parenthood was not going to be enough,” Vermeychuk said.
Vermeychuk felt Planned Parenthood could have increased the amount of patients it had at the College if the organization focused more on advertising itself, such as tabling and posting flyers around campus.
“We had no problem taking on reproductive services ourselves, but we had to plan for it,” Vermeychuk said. “Our staff is already swamped with the work they have to do and the school could not add a bigger workload onto them, so the College had to hire different employees that specialized in the reproductive health sector.”
Last summer, SHS hired a new nurse practitioner, Dr. Anna Slack, because the previous one had retired. At first, Slack was just going to be part of the regular SHS staff, but she gladly stepped up when she saw there was a need for a nurse in reproductive health. Slack had already worked with Planned Parenthood, so she had the qualifications and experience that the school was looking for, and she also loves working with college students.
There are some concerns that the College will not be able to provide all of the services offered by Planned Parenthood, but Vermeychuk disagrees.
“Of course, here at the College, we will be doing basic reproductive health — ordering birth control prescriptions, counseling for contraceptives, helping with UTIs and other infections — that sort of thing,” Vermeychuk said. “We do not want to spend a lot of money on medical equipment that will barely be used, since most of the students who use reproductive health services here just need routine, basic services.”
Vermeychuk said that if there is an emergency or if a student needs more advanced reproductive services than SHS can offer, such as the insertion of an IUD, then they will be referred to a nearby Planned Parenthood location.
There was talk of Telehealth Services replacing Planned Parenthood, but Vermeychuk said that many Student Health Service employees vehemently vetoed that idea because they felt that they would be better off integrating reproductive health into SHS.
“We believe that students really need face-to-face professional health care,” she said. “Some were a bit nervous to try to tackle such a big service after having Planned Parenthood here for years, but so far it has been running smoothly and has been successful. We’re completely booked!”
Vermeychuk explained that the College has no hard feelings toward Planned Parenthood, but it also did not make sense to continue the partnership.
Students agree that access to reproductive health services are an integral component to wellness on college campuses.
“It honestly makes me feel comfortable knowing that there’s an easy resource out there that you can go to in emergencies and not be berated by your parents about it,” said Bianca Arena, a senior health and exercise science major. “Without a safe space to go to for information about sex and the issues that go with it, students are just going to look on the internet, and probably get wrong information that could potentially be harmful.”
Melody Hwang, a senior urban education major, hopes that the new services will be as convenient as Planned Parenthood once was.
“Having Planned Parenthood on campus was a life saver,” Hwang said. “I know many students in economic hardships rely on services like this, and it is so important for the school to be able to provide these services for them.”