June 2, 2015 — Health officials in Colorado have said a state program providing long-acting reversible contraceptives to low-income women will continue despite funding concerns, the Colorado Springs Gazette reports (Schrader, Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/30).
The Colorado Family Planning Initiative offers no- or low-cost LARCs, such as intrauterine devices and hormonal implants, to low-income women at 68 clinics throughout the state. The initiative was established as a five-year pilot program through a $25 million private donation. In May, a Colorado Senate committee killed a measure (HB 15-1194) that would have provided $5 million in funding to continue the program (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/4).The private donation funding is slated to run out this year (Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/30).
The initiative has provided more than 30,000 IUDs and other LARC methods to low-income, uninsured or underinsured Colorado women. Since the initiative began, the state's teen birth rate has decreased by 40%. Meanwhile, the abortion rate among teens has decreased by 34%, according to Larry Wolk, Colorado's chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Further, in that period, the state has saved about $23 million from averted Medicaid costs associated with birth. Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment officials have predicted the program could save the state up to $40 million in Medicaid costs that would otherwise go toward pre- and postnatal care (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/4).
Program Will Continue
Wolk last week pledged that the program would remain in place. "We're going to continue the program, first and foremost," he said.
He added, "The $5 million that we were seeking in general fund (dollars) was to really help supplement the existing program." Wolk said the program would capitalize on existing resources absent the $5 million in funding. Further, he noted that he has met with in-state and out-of state foundations and that it is likely that additional funding will be available for fiscal year 2015-2016.
Meanwhile, Dan Martindale, director of El Paso County Public Health, said the department has made plans for what to do in the case that funding ends. He said, "We've learned to be very flexible and resilient." He added, "There are several different things that we can do should there be no more donor funding in a year or two."
State Lawmaker Affirms Support for Program
State Rep. KC Becker (D), who sponsored the bill to fund the program, said the state should be involved with programs, such as the LARC initiative, that reduce poverty and save millions of dollars. "It is absolutely an important role for the state to be working toward those goals," she said. IUDs can cost $800 to $1,000 for uninsured or underinsured women.
According to Becker, there will be a discussion of whether to introduce another program funding bill next year (Colorado Springs Gazette, 5/30).