St. Louis County is expanding its reproductive health care services
St. Louis County is expanding the types of reproductive and sexual health services it provides.
County Executive Sam Page on Monday signed an executive order to improve the information and contraceptive services available through the county’s health department.
“Our commitment is to ensure that reproductive and sexual health services not only continue in St. Louis County, but they’re expanded,” Page said at a press conference.
The order extends the department's existing programs and enhances the instruction that clinic staff at the county’s three community health centers and justice center receive, he said. Page said that would include expanded patient counseling and anti-bias and anti-racism training, as well as clinical training around contraception.
“Expanding these services is a commitment to providing equitable access to services and resources to address health and racial disparities,” he said.
Page’s order also directs the county health department to strengthen an existing partnership with the Missouri Family Health Council and seek other funding opportunities that would enhance the county’s contraceptive services.
Around 1,500 people receive reproductive health services from the county each year, Page said. Of those patients, 77% are Black, and the majority come from neighborhoods with high poverty rates, he said.
“Those attacking reproductive rights are really attacking our most vulnerable, making decisions for them instead of providing well marked avenues to information and to services,” Page said.
The announcement Monday came as a welcome surprise to County Council Chairwoman Rita Days, D-Bel Nor, who represents the 1st District.
“I am absolutely supportive of any type of expansion of health care services, particularly in my area,” she said. “We don’t have what we need. Reproductive rights and reproductive resources are no different.”
One of the goals of Monday’s order is to strengthen sexual health information to reduce unintended pregnancies within the county, Page said. This is also important for Days, who said economic factors can play as big a role as health when deciding to have a child.
“Good counseling and options for women, and men as well, should be part of the education that we do for our citizens,” she said. “A lot of us assume we have a base knowledge of options in terms of reproductive health, and I have found that’s just not the case.”
Beyond the executive order, Page talked about alleviating issues with the North Central Community Health Center building. He said this hurts the facility's ability to care for current patients and expand services to new ones.
Page would need the county council to appropriate funding for improvements to the North Central center. The issues with the health center in Pine Lawn had come up when the council discussed funding the county is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act, Days said.
Nothing has materialized yet despite agreement among council members that they should take action, she added.
“Clearly we need to make sure there is access. That is the bottom line,” Days said. “At the end of the day we want to promise the citizens, but we want to make sure we make good on those promises as well.”
Eric Schmid covers the Metro East for St. Louis Public Radio as part of the journalism grant program: Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.