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Family planning services allowed to seek funding, grants for another year

Feb 5, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

After answering a variety of tough questions, Fremont County Family Planning Services gained the Fremont County Commission's approval to seek funding for another year.

Family Planning Services is a non-profit organization run by the county government and provides family planning and reproductive health services at a free or reduced cost.

Several commissioners were concerned the year-old program was not financially sustainable and questioned whether the program should continue.

Family Planning Services project director Julie Twist said she anticipates the program will have a $19,000 shortfall by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.

She added that the program is seeking further grants, private donations and more clients to mitigate the deficit.

"The shortfall is not going to be this big," Twist said.

The program relies on federal Title X grant funding distributed by the Wyoming Health Council every year.

Family Planning Services needed the commission's approval to pursue renewal of the Title X grant for 2013.

The county department took over from Western Wyoming Family Services at the beginning of 2012. The county-run program has been open since April.

Commissioner Dennis Christensen asked whether the planned 8 percent state budget reductions would affect the Title X grant.

Twist said she thought money from the state was solid.

"Is your $20,000 shortfall because your revenues were off or because your expenses were?" asked commission chairman Doug Thompson.

When the program began, it only made financial projections for three months because it did not have a lot of budgeting information, county financial assistant Mike Stalder said.

"It bothered me that the revenues were so sketchy," Stalder said, referring to how the program relies on grants and donations.

County treasurer Scott Harnsberger said the county would handle the program's deficit if the commission approved the grant application.

"It there's a deficit balance, we charge interest," he said. "It's supposed to be done by June, and we just charge them interest on that deficit as time goes on."

Twist said those terms were agreeable to her.

"I guess I'm willing to let this go to the grant application, but if it's not going to be sustainable, I don't think it's something Fremont County is wanting to pick up," Thompson said.

Commissioner Travis Becker had similar concerns.

"I think there's a reason the former service provider or company dropped it, and we're seeing it here, it's because it's not sustainable," he said.

Twist said finances were not why the former family planning agency quit.

"Western Wyoming family planning, this is going to sound degrading, but they're just God awful," she said.

She said later that Western Wyoming Family Services decreased clinic hours to one day every two weeks in Riverton and one day every two months in Lander.

"There was very little access," she said.

Pat Hickerson's view differed from Thompson and Becker.

"I think the county really needs this service, the statistics are there," he said. "Maybe (we should) take a look at it when we go through our budgets, weigh it against the other charities. Maybe this is more important."

The commission voted 4-1 to support family planning's grant application. Thompson voted against it.

"I was extremely pleased that they backed us on it," Twist said. "We'll do our very best to make it sustainable."

The family planning clinic's Riverton office, W. 325 Main St. Suite D, is open every Thursday, and the Lander office in the Fremont County Courthouse is open every other Wednesday. The number is 856-7212.

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