Planned Parenthood moves to a brighter, busier building

MIDDLBURY — Last fall, the Planned Parenthood office in Middlebury announced a move from their standalone building on Route 7 South to a suite in a medical office building at 1330 Exchange St. A local team of health care providers worked with local builders to retrofit an office that is the envy of many around. It’s bright, open, colorful and welcoming. Exactly what you need when you have to go to the doctor.
The Middlebury center has moved several times since it was founded in the 1970s as part of Planned Parenthood of Vermont. That first office was in the Courthouse on Court Street, then in the early 1980s it moved down the road to 75 Court Street and transitioned to become an affiliate of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
In the late 1990s the branch raised funds and purchased a condo at 102 Court Street, where they stayed until 2013. That’s when they moved to Route 7 South, which was always intended as a temporary location until finding a more suitable space. October of 2017 is when they made that move to 1330 Exchange Street, where the office staff hopes to be located for at least the next ten years.
Lucy Leriche, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s Vice President of Public Policy for Vermont, told the Independent that the move enables the Middlebury center to nearly double its capacity for care.
“We are growing from a single exam room in the previous location to two exam rooms and a consultation room,” Leriche says.
That will enable medical professionals to see up to 20 more patients each week, Leriche estimates, which is quite significant for a small clinic operating just three or four days a week.
The Middlebury Planned Parenthood branch saw 874 patients in 2016 (the latest year for which data was available). The data shows that 22 percent of these patients were teens, and 43 percent were in their 20s.
Approximately 87 percent of patients were females, but Leriche says males are the fastest-growing service population for the organization nationally.
“We are proud to offer services to anyone,” Leriche says of Planned Parenthood’s open door approach. “We offer a sliding fee scale and never turn a patient away for inability to pay.” In fact, 47 percent of patients served at the Middlebury location in 2016 earned less than $18,000 per year and were funded through Medicaid or other public assistance programs. Of course that means that most other patients fall in higher-income brackets and simply choose to seek care with Planned Parenthood’s providers.
Leriche says the Middlebury move into a larger space is with hopes and plans to expand services and meet what Planned Parenthood of Northern New England has deemed a greater opportunity in the area.
“We draw clients to that office from Middlebury, Bristol, Vergennes, New Haven and Brandon,” Leriche says. It is one of 12 Planned Parenthood health centers in Vermont, with the next closest locations in Rutland, Williston and Burlington.
   THE MIDDLEBURY PLANNED Parenthood office has moved to the medical office building at 1330 Exchange St. in Middlebury. 
Independent photo/Trent Campbell
The most routine services provided at Planned Parenthood clinics in Vermont are family planning, counseling and contraception (37 percent), symptom screening and care (24 percent), testing for sexually transmitted infections (13 percent), cancer screening and treatment (10 percent), abortion care and counseling (6 percent), pregnancy testing (5 percent) and other care (5 percent).
Not all services are offered at all clinics, with more procedural services limited to large clinics.
Middlebury’s clinic to date has had limited services, not including abortion procedures or other more invasive services, but with their expanded space Leriche says they do expect to add some services and hope to expand the options to meet patient needs.
One service new to the Middlebury clinic is that they now have a mental health counselor who will be onsite during all open hours and can address a wide range of mental health care needs.
The move to Exchange Street puts the Planned Parenthood clinic among many other health practices with offices in that part of town. Leriche says the local reception has been incredibly supportive, positive and encouraging.
“One of our main interests when determining sites for clinics is accessibility,” Leriche says. “We want to be visible and a place that people can travel to easily and frequently so they know where we are, but we also want people to have privacy and confidentiality when they come to our clinics.” Exchange Street seems to be a perfect fit.
The new office is situated within the office building at 1330 Exchange St., alongside Eye Care Associates, Porter Pediatrics, and several other Porter Medical Center health clinics and offices. People walking into the building could just as easily be going to any of these other offices, which helps the anonymity factor important to many patients.
“We are very proud of all of the services we offer,” Leriche states, “but also recognize that to some extent there is a stigma that’s been associated with our brand and some of the services we provide. We want to do everything we can to erase that stigma.”
As with many things, direct experience works quickly to increase accuracy of knowledge about what Planned Parenthood really does, Leriche says. Knowing that 99 percent of women of reproductive age have used birth control in their lives and that one in every five women have used Planned Parenthood may help others recognize the need for safe, professional and caring clinics to care for these needs.

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