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Franklin family clinic marks 25 years

November 11, 1996

By STEVEN T. DENNIS

Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Twenty-five years ago, poor women in Franklin County often didn't have a place to go to get free or subsidized regular physicals, birth control, and family planning advice. That changed when the Franklin County Family Planning Clinic opened Nov. 11, 1971, in Chambersburg.

The clinic proved to be a watershed moment for women's health needs in the county, said Family Health Services education coordinator Ann Spottswood. "Many women felt that they did not have the money to see a family doctor," Spottswood said.

In its first year, what was to become Family Health Services of South Central Pennsylvania served 807 people. Now, the organization has grown to four clinics in three counties and has 15,651 visits a year. Educational programs reach another 3,586 people each year.

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"Women are looking for a provider whose main focus is women's health care," said Executive Director Beth Cathcart, helping to explain the increase. She also noted that the clinics have seen a marked rise in sexually transmitted diseases over the years. "There's obviously more young girls who are sexually promiscuous than there used to be."

Birth control has also changed a lot, she said. The pill, Depo Provera and Norplant have given women more options, she said.

In addition, Family Health Services' educational programs serve every school district in the area with a variety of programs focused on health, family communication and personal responsibility.

"The history of Family Health Services is not about an organization but about people," said Rev. Jeffrey Diller, a board member and pastor of Zion Reformed United Church of Christ in Chambersburg.

"It is about the 16-year-old who fears she is pregnant and does not know where to turn. It is about the 15-year-old worried about how to resist the pressure to have sex. It is about the young couple trying for two years to have a baby. It is about another couple with four children, living at poverty level, fearful of another pregnancy. It is about the older woman who has not been able to afford a physical for years. It is about parents who want to know how to talk to their child about the facts of life."

The original clinic only provided physicals and contraceptives. Now, the clinics provide a full range of services, including genetic screening, premarital exams, preventive health screenings, cancer screening for women over 50, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

A fairly recent addition to the clinic services is hormone replacement therapy for women as they enter menopause.

The organization is not limited to poor women. Men and women come to the clinic and pay a sliding scale based on their income. About 45 percent of the clinic's funding comes from federal and state governments, Cathcart said.

Preventive care has always been a major focus of the group, she said. "Now it's in vogue," she said, because of the rise of health maintenance organizations.

In the future, Cathcart said she expects the organization to continue to change with the aging demographics of the area and to collaborate more with other providers to give patients a seamless health care experience.

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