Following a legislative session where lawmakers slashed funding for family planning and targeted Planned Parenthood, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) has released a much-reduced list of organizations that will receive state dollars to provide birth control, STD testing and cervical and breast cancer screenings for the state's poorest women.
Between now and March 31, 2013, 41 womens' health providers will receive a total of $12.4 million, down from 71 agencies in the last biennium. (See the list below.)
Left off the list of grant recipients is Planned Parenthood. The organization's efforts to access state funds for its clinics — which cannot provide abortions if they receive tax dollars — have been stymied by abortion opponents in the state Capitol, including Gov. Rick Perry and many members of the Republican-dominated Legislature. They believe any fiscal support of Planned Parenthood-affiliated clinics helps keep the organization afloat.
In the last legislative session, lawmakers gutted family planning funding for all providers by two-thirds, from $111.5 million during the 2010-2011 biennium to $37.9 million over the next two years.
DSHS spokeswoman Carrie Williams said lawmakers directed the agency to award those limited funds based on a three-tiered, priority-funding model, one that emphasizes public community clinics, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) and private comprehensive care clinics over those that provide only family planning services.
DSHS reported that 12 women's health applicants were denied funding because their regions were already covered by “tier one” providers. For instance, the Lone Star Community Health Center clinics in Montgomery County didn’t receive funding because their area is already covered by clinics associated with the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.
Williams said even though Planned Parenthood clinics are not on the list of the agency's 41 official contractors, three Planned Parenthood chapters are receiving some temporary funding over the next few months. In those cases, either no one else from their regions applied, or other applicants didn't meet the criteria for funding. Williams said the state still has about $2 million available in its family planning budget, and has posted a request for additional applicants for that money.
“We want to make sure that we are adhering to legislative intent and that women are able to get care seamlessly,” Williams said. “The re-compete is to make sure other entities, such as associations, were aware of the opportunity to apply for these funds.”
Sarah Wheat, interim CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, said the tiered system represents a fundamental shift in how women’s health is funded. Planned Parenthood's Austin chapter had been receiving state funds until September, when DSHS dropped more than a dozen providers. Her organization's latest application was also rejected in favor of funding the Central Texas Community Health Centers, an FQHC.
“When you look at who’s now funded or temporarily funded, I think it makes it clear that this represents a shredding of the health care system that’s been built up over decades,” Wheat said.
Even among those who received a grant, there are concerns that the state cut too deeply into a program that used to serve 220,000 women every year. Under the current budget, DSHS estimates about 60,000 people will be able to continue to receive birth control and disease testing.
Lone Star Circle of Care, an FQHC with clinics throughout Central Texas, will receive $322,488 over the next 14 months — enough to cover only 20 percent of the family planning costs the clinic incurred in 2011. The state used to provide enough funding to cover between 70 to 80 percent of the clinic's services.
“It’s not enough compared to the demand we have for these services, so we’re seeking alternative sources of funding to cover the shortfall,” said Rebekah Haynes, Lone Star’s spokeswoman.
Below, we've posted three spreadsheets: the list of 2012 family planning contractors, the list of agencies that received temporary extensions, and a rundown of applicants denied funding.