Mulroy on CCHS and Title X – The skeptics were right

Well, that’s not exactly what he said on Fox13 News at 10pm on Friday…his actual words don’t fit into the headline, so I paraphrased.

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What does Title X funding do? Here’s a synopsis from a previous post:

Title X family planning funds seek to help women and men make the right choices to not only prevent unwanted pregnancies, but also slow the rate of STD infection, which is unacceptably high, and rising as more and more teens engage in unprotected sex.

If you managed to forget the details of the Title X case, you should go back and read these four posts:

The Battle for Title X – Part 1
The Battle for Title X – Part 2
The Battle for Title X – Part 3
The Battle for Title X – Wrap-Up

If you don’t want to read 8,000 words on the topic, here’s a brief rundown of what happened:

• Gov. Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly sought to prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds under the rationale that ANY funding to Planned Parenthood somehow supports abortion. This is, of course, not the case, and has been a conservative trojan horse for all sorts of bad policy.

• A technicality kept that specific language from appearing in the bill (also, the language was constitutionally suspect), so the Governor sought to exert pressure on Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell…to find another provider other than Planned Parenthood.

• The County put the Title X contract out for bid. Three organizations responded: Planned Parenthood, CCHS and Memphis Health Center. PPGMR received the second highest score on their bid, even though they already had the staff in place and had a proven track record of service (CCHS had neither). The number of locations CCHS had was the rationale for scoring them higher, even though they had NO TRACK RECORD of serving individuals for this kind of care and have a specific policy that DISCOURAGES some kinds of contraception (an issue that could put them at odds with Federal law that governs Title X funds).

• After a deeply politicized debate, led primarily by Health and Hospitals Chair Heidi Shafer, and that included asking candidates for the appointment to an open County Commission seat how they would vote on the issue, the Commission voted 9-4 for the CCHS contract. Democrats supporting the CCHS bid: Justin Ford, James Harvey and Steve Mulroy.

The Title X issue was one that I covered extensively. In fact, I think I still have all the documentation I cited sitting on a table upstairs…nearly three years later (which may say as much about my housekeeping skills as my passion for the subject).

The outcome of that vote, was one of the primary motivating factors in my decision to run for County Commission in 2012.

What we haven’t had in the time since that fateful October day, is an accounting of numbers released in any public manner. Now, it seems, Commissioner Mulroy is ready to make good on a promise to oversee the care provided by CCHS, which is a good thing, especially since the contract is due to be renewed in July of this year…BEFORE county elections (though it could just as easily be pushed back by Mayor Luttrell, like it was in 2011).

Now, with public statements that confirm the greatest fears of advocates, like myself, that awarding the contract to a inexperienced, and on some level…unwilling provider (unwilling to fulfill all the conditions of Title X funds on site. CCHS said they would use contractors for the stuff that made them feel queasy) would lead to detrimental outcomes.

At least 4800 women a year, for the last two years, have not received the services they would have when Planned Parenthood was running the Title X program. Because Title X is a fee for service grant (you don’t get the money if the service isn’t provided) this means we’ve been leaving millions of dollars that could be put to good use on the table.

While Title X never covered enough women, that the funds are covering even fewer now should be of great concern. Even with the advent of Obamacare, many poor women are not covered by TennCare because Gov. Haslam refuses to expand it, and the system for signing people up for TennCare is more about saving pennies than healthy outcomes for people in tough circumstances.

Its an election year, and its very hard to believe that this issue won’t be part of the discussion going forward. What advocates of adequate reproductive health care services can’t allow to happen is let Mayor Luttrell, or more likely his CAO Harvey Kennedy whitewash these outcomes as no big deal or present them as growing pains. This is a huge deal for this community. Mayor Luttrell caved on this issue at the expense of women’s reproductive health, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t again.

It will be up to the voters, and the Shelby County Commission to hold his feet to the fire as the contract comes back up for a vote.

On this issue, both the Commission and the Mayor Luttrell have failed the citizens of Shelby County. Its our job to let them know that, and demand better.

12 thoughts

  1. Pls support commr mulroys resolution to reopen the bidding in the Title X Contract.
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    I would like to see patients allowed to go to any qualified agency (HealthDept, Planned Parenthood, Choices, CCHS, etc). I request an independent panel evaluate the qualifications and compliance (under Title 10) of each agency. Since this service is fee for service, it is not necessary to pick one agency or disqualify any qualified agency.
    To be qualified an agency must abide by federal Title X rules which include unbiased counseling and referrals to Plan B or abortion services if requested. At the time of the County Commission Aporoval in 2011, CCHS did not agree to comply and never should have been approved. There should be an audit to discover if they are complying today. If not, it is the responsibility to disqualify CCHS

    Steven Sondheim
    Memphis

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