Family planning

Bozeman nonprofit to take over Montana’s family planning program

Bridgercare, a Bozeman-based nonprofit, received a federal grant of about $2 million to administer Title X funding throughout Montana, the organization announced Wednesday. The funding is for the first year of a five-year grant cycle.

Bridgercare, which offers a range of reproductive and sexual health services but does not provide abortions, has been a longtime subrecipient of Title X funds. It will take over management of the federal family planning program from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services, which has also filed an application to continue administering the program. The DPHHS has been the sole administrator of Title X since its inception in the 1970s.

The federal programwhich helps fund thousands of providers nationwide, supports medical services “related to achieving pregnancy, preventing pregnancy, and helping women, men, and couples achieve number and spacing of children desired”. Title X also covers some cancer screenings, support for substance use disorders, and services for sexually transmitted infections.

DPHHS currently lists 22 family planning clinics across the state that are part of its Title X program. Bridgercare said Wednesday that the new network, called Planned Parenthood Montanawill launch April 1 with eight providers operating at 16 sites: Bridgercare in Bozeman, Butte-Silver Bow Public Health, Central Montana Family Planning in Lewistown, Flathead County Family Planning, Lake County Public Health, Northwest Community Health Center in Libby, One Health in Miles City and Planned Parenthood of Montana, which operates in Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and Billings.

“We are humbled by this demonstration of confidence in our ability to establish and administer Montana’s family planning with fairness, efficiency and transparency,” Bridgercare executive director Stephanie McDowell said at a press conference Wednesday. “We are thrilled that our vision for a Title X project that emphasizes quality, equity and dignity for all Montanans has been selected following a competitive application process..

The change in Montana’s Title X program has policy implications. Although the program falls under the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the Montana Legislature last year passed a bill limiting how the state Department of Health can administer these funds. This policy, House Bill 620, prohibited DPHHS from contracting or distributing grants to any organization that provides abortions, such as Planned Parenthood of Montana. The bill also prioritized public health centers to receive Title X funds above private health providers such as Bridgercare.

The Title X program has also faced political turmoil domestically. Under the administration of former President Donald Trump, Title X recipients were prohibited from referring patients to providers for abortions. Planned Parenthood of Montana later left the state’s Title X program rather than comply with the new federal rule. The restriction was reversed under the administration of President Joe Biden.

DPHHS spokeswoman Megan Grotzke said the state was “disappointed” to learn that the federal agency would not be renewing funding for the department’s program.

“We recognize, however, that recent changes to pro-abortion federal rules have distorted Title X and conflict with Montana law,” Grotzke said. “The department will provide transition and continuity for Title X-funded clinics and their clients.”

Bridgercare declined to provide its application to Montana Free Press, citing a competitive application process. In the document soliciting grant applications, the federal Department of Health described Title X as covering a range of medical services, including contraceptives, pregnancy testing, basic infertility care, and birth control services. sexually transmitted infections. The selection criteria also places high value on Title X administrators’ ability to advance health equity, particularly for low-income clients and communities that have been historically underserved.

McDowell said Bridgercare plans to continue working with all current Title X subrecipients under its new program, including those previously included in the state network. She said the majority of the $2 million grant will go towards delivering healthcare services and her organization has raised additional funds to cover increased administrative costs. The organization plans to submit a revised budget detailing the finances of the program to the Federal Ministry of Health within 30 days.