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Tuesday, Apr 16, 2024

Planned Parenthood Expands Services

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), colloquially known as “Obamacare,” passed in 2010, Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties (PPOSBC) took a closer look at its business model.

Nearly 70% of Planned Parenthood patients live with incomes at or below 150% of the federal poverty level. With the advent of the ACA, low- and moderate-income people, who are less likely to have employer-sponsored coverage, now had access to subsidized health insurance plans.

“But many of them had only been to Planned Parenthood,” Nichole Ramirez, senior vice president of communication and donor relations for PPOSBC, told the Business Journal. “They were nervous about going somewhere else.”

The organization saw an opportunity to fill a gap in healthcare for underserved local communities by expanding beyond the reproductive healthcare services for which the organization is known.

In 2013, PPOSBC began offering primary healthcare services under the umbrella of Melody Health.

To date, Melody Health, which shares office space in the nine Planned Parenthood buildings throughout Orange County and San Bernardino County, has served more than 40,500 patients, not including the reproductive healthcare services provided by PPOSBC.

Broad Services

Dr. Shannon Connolly was an early hire of Melody Health in 2013, and helped to create patient service plans.

The early stages of the initiative were marked by uncertainty, with success far from guaranteed.

“The first day, we had one appointment scheduled. And then they canceled,” Connolly, who now serves as Melody Health’s associate medical director of primary care, said.

But within a short period, patients were filling up every available appointment.

Melody Health serves patients covered by both Medi-Cal and private insurance. Its doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses and physician assistants offer a range of essential healthcare services from sexual health checkups and colon cancer screening to diabetes and thyroid screening, high blood pressure monitoring and services crucial for public health, including vaccinations and employment and sports physicals.

Melody Health also aims to play a vital role in preventive care, offering UTI testing and treatment, smoking cessation support, and providing referrals for rape crisis counseling.

“Our unwavering focus on providing high-quality, compassionate healthcare to those in need has been the cornerstone of our success for over three decades,” CEO and President Jon Dunn said.

“[That] empowers us to make a meaningful difference in the lives of underserved communities while expanding to a wide range of services and facilitating growth.”

$3M in Support

PPOSBC, which ranks No. 6 on this week’s list of Orange County’s largest nonprofits with $103 million in revenue for the 12 months ending June 30, is funded through federal support, with a significant portion derived from Medi-Cal reimbursements for preventive care services, and contributions from Title X, a federal family planning program.

The organization also receives grants and donations from businesses and individuals, including two $1 million anonymous donations last year.

In the last fiscal year, PPOSBC raised $7 million in donations last year and provided more than $3 million for services to those unable to pay.

“By listening to what the community needs, we have been able to serve even more patients year after year,” Ramirez said.

Planned Parenthood’s mission revolves around providing an “exceptional healthcare experience for all of our patients,” Ramirez notes.

“This has often meant expanding services such as adding comprehensive primary care, online behavioral health, vasectomy, and even creating an app for patients to get birth control prescriptions and UTI treatment,” Ramirez said.

That app, Planned Parenthood Direct, launched in 2015 and allows patients to obtain prescriptions that are delivered to their doorstep within a 24-hour window.

In response to the acute and growing need for mental health support, PPOSBC introduced online behavioral health services in 2021. The virtual mental health platform counts a team of five full-time therapists, with expansion plans underway.

In the past two years, the program has recorded nearly 4,000 unique visits.

PPOSBC also has a community education program tailored to educate youth, parents and professionals about reproductive health, create open lines of communication between parents and children, and recognize crucial signs of unhealthy romantic relationships.

Nearly 80,000 individuals, encompassing a diverse range of communities, have benefited from these initiatives, according to PPOSBC.

One such education initiative, dubbed Equal Voices, is designed for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“This population has an increased vulnerability to exploitation and sexual abuse,” Ramirez said. “The Equal Voices program provides tailored education for youth with intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them identify healthy and unhealthy relationships, consent, understand bodily autonomy, and effectively communicate abuse.”

PPOSBC is also contracted with the State of California to provide services for WIC, also called the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, including breastfeeding guidance, peer counseling for first-time mothers, and education about making healthy and nutritious food choices.

Guiding Growth

PPOSBC continues to look for growth opportunities guided by the board of directors.

This includes Andy Thorburn, founder of Foothill Ranch-based Global Benefits Group­­, who emphasizes the importance of healthcare access within the workforce.

“It’s imperative for local businesses to champion women’s rights, and more specifically reproductive rights,” Thorburn said. “Upholding these rights isn’t just a matter of social responsibility; it’s a cornerstone of fostering inclusive workplaces, creating workplaces that attract top talent, and empowering individuals to make autonomous choices about their health, family, and future.”

As for physical expansions, PPOSBC and Melody Health want to increase the size of existing buildings to better serve current communities, rather than introducing new sites.

Looking ahead, PPOSBC’s “newest push is social determinants of health,” according to Connelly.

“This includes linking our patients—through community resources—with services related to nutrition and housing, among others. The network is being built. Part of our role will be letting our patients know what support is available to them.”

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Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung
Sonia Chung joined the Orange County Business Journal in 2021 as their Marketing Creative Director. In her role she creates all visual content as it relates to the marketing needs for the sales and events teams. Her responsibilities include the creation of marketing materials for six annual corporate events, weekly print advertisements, sales flyers in correspondence to the editorial calendar, social media graphics, PowerPoint presentation decks, e-blasts, and maintains the online presence for Orange County Business Journal’s corporate events.

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