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Officials to tackle birth control issue

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Centurys school-based health clinic has seen an uptick in the number of students requesting birth control since Washington County closed its teen clinic last year.A storm appears to be brewing for the Hillsboro School Board as members prepare to address the question of family planning services at the district’s school-based health center (SBHC).

The clinic, located at Century High School, does not currently provide family planning services for patients.

Virginia Garcia SBHC manager Lacey Beaty told the board earlier this month the three-year health center contract between the district, Virginia Garcia and Washington County Health & Human Services expires at the end of this school year and will need to be re-negotiated.

Beaty also asked the board to provide some direction to her staff about what to tell patients who come to the clinic seeking birth control.

“The climate has changed in Washington County,” she told board members. Last year Washington County Health restructured its health care services, which included closing the teen clinic in downtown Hillsboro that served uninsured and low-income youth. As a result, Beaty said, Century’s SBHC has seen an uptick in the number of students seeking vaccinations and contraceptives. She estimated between three and 10 students per week come to the center asking for family planning services.

“My intent in going to the board is to get them to help me solve this,” Beaty said this week. “What are we going to do with these kids falling through the cracks?”

Beaty’s request to the board sparked debate among board members. Differences of opinion became immediately apparent.

“I feel really uncomfortable dictating what health care can be had,” said board member Lisa Allen. “We’re a school board. A health care provider should decide what is acceptable.”

“We don’t need to provide those medical services onsite,” countered board chairman Wayne Clift. “Medical services are available throughout Hillsboro.”

“A good portion of this community would say this is not something we should be doing for younger students [students under 18],” said board member Glenn Miller.

When the Century SBHC first opened in 2013, said superintendent Mike Scott, “there wasn’t a specific board vote around this issue,” of whether or not to provide family planning services.

“At this point, to change direction we would need the board to take action,” he added.

“Not all teenagers who seek out oral contraceptives are sexually active,” said board member Kim Strelchun.

Beaty said young women take contraceptives for a variety of reasons, including athletes who want to regulate their menstrual cycles, to control heavy menstrual cycles and to treat acne, for example.

Virginia Garcia runs school-based health centers in the Beaverton, Forest Grove, Tigard-Tualatin and Willamina school districts. Beaty said the Willamina and Beaverton centers prescribe contraceptives — oral, patch and shots only — to females.

Beaty’s concern is that youth seeking contraceptives need a “wholistic approach,” including discussing options, as well as addressing the social and emotional aspects behind the decision to begin contraceptives.

“A 20-minute visit with a health care provider is really important,” Beaty said.

Under the new law passed by the Oregon Legislature allowing pharmacists to prescribe contraceptives, teens under 18 seeking birth control must submit proof of a previous prescription.

Scott will bring three options for the board to discuss in February. The board will need to make a decision on family planning services and determine if that decision will be a part of school district policy, wording in a contract with Virginia Garcia, or as part of a Memorandum of Understanding.

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