Some family-planning funding in Texas will soon be under new management.
The federal government announced today that it would no longer give a large slice of federal family-planning funds to the state of Texas. Instead, the feds will award the $6.5 million grant to the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, a coalition of providers led by Fran Hagerty, to distribute to clinics for birth control, wellness exams, STD screenings and other family-planning services.
The Observer reported in November that the coalition would apply directly to the federal government for the grant—called Title X (Title 10)—one of three federal funding streams that pay for family-planning services in the state.
Before today, the sole grantee for Texas’ Title X funds had been the Texas Department of State Health Services. The health department had in turn distributed the grant money to family planning providers statewide.
But the 2011 Legislature slashed the $111-million family-planning budget by two thirds, causing more than 60 clinics to close. The loss of clinics resulted in the number of Texans receiving services through Title X to drop by 50 percent, according to an annual review by the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The collateral damage wrought by the budget cuts has been widespread. Many of the providers in Hagerty’s coalition had lost state family-planning funds and are struggling to stay open.
Title X will help pay for family-planning services at these struggling clinics. But the grant provides more than money. Unlike other funding streams, the Title X grant allows providers to cast privacy protection over all of their clients. This is especially important for teens that would otherwise need parental consent to access birth control. The Title X grant also allows clinics to buy pharmaceutical drugs at a steep discount, and gives them the flexibility to invest in staff and infrastructure.
The Texas Department of State Health Services had sponsored 40 providers through Title X that operated a total of 122 clinics. Beginning next month, Hagerty’s coalition will distribute the Title X money to 34 contractors—including Planned Parenthood—operating 121 clinics across the state. The grant operates on three-year cycles, though the initial $6.5 million award covers just half a year. Hagerty said in an email that she doesn’t yet know how much the three-year budget will be due to uncertainty over federal budget cuts.
“WHFPT and [the Department of State Health Services] must work together to improve the health status of all Texans,” Hagerty wrote. “We are all ready and eager for this opportunity to provide family planning care for Texas families.”
Carrie Williams, spokesperson for the Department of State Health Services said in an email: “We just received a press release indicating that the federal award to us will end in a few days, and we’re reviewing the information to get a sense of the full impact. We have a long history with these dollars and have been dedicated to using them to maximize family planning services for women in Texas. Our hope is that the provider base remains healthy and that any transition is smooth for those who need services.”