Posted: Sep 30, 2013 8:39 PM by Dennis Bragg - MTN News
HAMILTON - Ravalli County's Family Planning Clinic closed for the final time Monday. But a group who's been criticizing county commissioners for turning down federal money for the program is vowing to keep working on the issue.
With signs, songs and speeches, about 80 people gathered outside the courthouse in Hamilton Monday to level a final blast of criticism at Ravalli County's decision to turn down Title X grant money from the federal government. That money funds the Family Planning Clinic, and the rally was timed to mark the final day of the clinic's operation. But the gathering also carried hints the fight isn't over.
"It just seems absurd. This program has been in place for 42 years. It started during the Nixon era. It's not a partisan thing," said Pat Tucker, Family Planning Clinic supporter.
Speakers continue to accuse commissioners of "running amok", and placing moral and political views above public health. But much of the mood here was already looking at ways to find private funding or other ways to keep services available, some of those more symbolic than actual solutions.
"We're having a bake sale today. Cupcakes for Pap Smears. It is really tongue in cheek. The idea that we should be having bake sales to fund family planning, when these commissioners that voted against it are taking tax dollars for their own health care and for their own salaries, although the donations will go to Planned Parenthood in Missoula, which is now going to be the closest clinic for our women and men here in the valley," said Tucker.
Commissioner Suzy Foss had voted for the funds the past two years, but changed her mind this time after hearing concerns the clinic's clients should be seeing a primary care doctor or receiving services at the hospital. She hopes the community will find the money to manage the services locally, "This is important. It represents less than 1 percent of our population, but it's a needy population. And if it's important our community can step up and take care of its own and not rely on the federal government. And I believe that's going to happen, from what I understand."
While there are no clear indications as to what happens next with this issue, there is a determination to restore some of these clinical services to the Bitterroot Valley.