County Officials in Mont. Consider Refusing Title X Funds

August 1, 2011 — Commissioners in Ravalli County, Mont., have raised concerns about accepting federal Title X family planning funding to provide family planning services at a county clinic and declined to sign a task order authorizing the nearly $39,000 contract, the Ravalli Republic reports (Bermes, Ravalli Republic, 7/26). At a recent meeting, Commissioners Matt Kanenwisher, Suzy Foss and Greg Chilcott said their opposition stems from their view that contraception in general is not a public health issue and in particular, that public funds should not be used to provide emergency contraception. In addition, they are opposed to requirements that grantees must offer confidential services, including contraceptive services, to minors without requiring parental notification (Howell, Bitterroot Star, 7/26).

Federal Title X funds enable the clinic to offer preventive and reproductive health services, including annual exams, pregnancy tests, contraception, Pap tests, sexually transmitted infection testing, nutrition counseling and educational programs. If the commissioners refuse to sign the task order by Aug. 8, the clinic's family planning program will be eliminated, according to the Republic.

Judy Griffin, the county's director of public health, said refusing to sign the contract will "shut down the program," adding that it will also affect "people who will invariably lose their job." Griffin said the county has never had any issues with its task orders and urged the commission to "resolve this." The county is "accruing debt here on this, and it needs to be taken care of," she said.

Title X grantees are prohibited from using funds to provide abortion services. Griffin said the county clinic does not perform abortions or schedule appointments with clinics that offer abortion services. The clinic receives about $30,000 annually from the county's general fund, in addition to the federal money. The clinic will not receive the county money if the federal Title X grant is turned down. Last year, the clinic served 461 patients, a majority of whom were uninsured or had incomes below the federal poverty level (Ravalli Republic, 7/26).