Local Planned Parenthood center lease to end, County steps up

Local Planned Parenthood center lease to end, County steps up

Nisha Malley

The Mountain View Planned Parenthood Health Center, located on San Antonio Road, has been notified that their lease will not be renewed this year because their site is pending redevelopment.The clinic is threatened to close as early as May. Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted in support of assisting Planned Parenthood, at the urging of Board Supervisor Joe Simitian, on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

“If this clinic closes, we are going to be in a world of hurt,” said Simitian who represents the 5th District of Santa Clara County, which includes Mountain View, Los Altos, and Los Altos Hills.

Heather Boyle, Health teacher at MVHS, worries about the impacts this could have for students.

“I wouldn’t even know where to refer our kids to,” Boyle said.

After the lease expires in May, Planned Parenthood will be on a month-to-month extension until construction begins.

According to Simitian, the county’s plan to aid Planned Parenthood could involve providing financial assistance, finding alternative locations, shouldering some of the clinic’s patient load, or working with the current landlord of Planned Parenthood to extend the existing lease.

While no new policies have been determined, the passing of Simitian’s board proposal approved county staff to take direct action and explore the different possibilities for lending aid to Planned Parenthood and dealing with a potential closure.

The Planned Parenthood location serves an estimated 8,095 patients annually, and 2,131 patients covered by the Valley Health Plan receive primary care from this location, according to Simitian’s board proposal. “While 70% of the clinic’s patients earn below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (the upper limit of Medi-Cal financial eligibility), only 24% are eligible for Medi-Cal,” Simitian said in his board proposal.

“Any time that people lose access to healthcare, it can be really devastating,” said Lupe Rodriguez, Director of Public Affairs for Mar Monte Planned Parenthood.

According to Simitian, a major challenge is that the 5th District does not have a county clinic, and therefore relies on independent organizations like Planned Parenthood to provide healthcare for people that need access.

“I think some people would presumably find healthcare in places that are less convenient and more expensive, but I worry that a significant number of them would simply go without the healthcare and family planning that they need,” Simitian said.

As the only Planned Parenthood between Redwood City and San Jose, it is one of the only public health and low-income health centers in the area.

“I think we’re a very integral provider for community members who don’t have access to healthcare otherwise, many of whom are undocumented, and we’re happy to be able to provide that care,” Rodriguez said. “We think that everybody, regardless of immigration status, should have access to healthcare.”

According to Simitian, given the large patient volume at this clinic, and the high demand for primary care and reproductive services, it is unlikely there is enough excess capacity in other area health centers to absorb those affected by the clinic’s closure.

Planned Parenthood has been searching for alternative locations for over a year and a half, but has found it very challenging to find a site that is both easily accessible to its patients through public transportation and has lower rent costs.

“As these cities are changing and the price of living and that kind of thing is going up, it certainly has become a challenge for us and, I think, other nonprofit organizations, to find affordable locations to be in,” Rodriguez said.

Simitian recognizes the immediate challenge of potentially losing a key clinic in Mountain View; he also hopes to build a long-term partnership between the county and Planned Parenthood.

The potential closure of this Planned Parenthood comes at a time when the presidential administration has pledged to defund Planned Parenthood at the federal level. Santa Clara County formally registered their opposition to federal efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at the same board meeting. This involves no legal action on the part of the county.

“We’ve been in this location for 20 years, and we want to find a place where we can call home and ensure that the community can call it home as well,” Rodriguez said.