On Feb. 23, Associate Dean of Residence Life Mark DeVilbiss released a campus-wide email in response to concerns about the availability of contraceptive services on Wittenberg’s campus. The concerns arose after an announcement via email on Jan. 27 about a partnership between Wittenberg University Health Center and Community Mercy Health Partners (CMHP), a Catholic-affiliated health system in Ohio.
DeVilbiss, in the email, assured students and faculty that condoms and oral contraceptives would still be available to students without medical reasons. He said that he is currently working on a list of doctors in the Springfield area that will prescribe contraceptives, which would be made available to students. The Health Center can also recommend these providers to students who are seeking this care.
“We are happy about, excited about our partnership with Community Mercy Health Partners,” DeVilbiss said. “We also care very much about women’s and all students’ health, and that is our primary goal. And that has not changed, so we want to be able to get information out in a way that is very public and easy to access.”
The conversation about health at Wittenberg stands in the context of a larger conversation about the health of Springfield. In 2014, women living in 45502 through 45506 received 119 abortions, according to the Ohio Department of Health. In addition, Clark County has seen 7,879 births to mothers 24-years-old or younger since 2006, about 72 percent of which were to mothers between 20 and 24.
Danielle Craig, director of communications at Planned Parenthood for Southwest Ohio, said that the Springfield Planned Parenthood clinic offers a range of birth control options, including: long-term reversible, hormonal, non-hormonal, permanent and emergency forms of birth control. In addition, the clinic offers educational sessions for young people on Wednesdays at 2 p.m.
“We offer high quality, non-judgmental care,” Craig said. The Springfield office is currently open four days a week.
“The decision to contract with Mercy was made by upper administration without any input from the Health Center staff, myself included,” said Erin Yontz, MS, CRNP and nurse at the Wittenberg Health Center. “The partnership with Mercy Health has changed many of the operating procedures at the Health Center, and may limit the availability of some reproductive health services.”
Yontz also emphasized the importance of using barrier methods to prevent transition of STDs, even when a female partner is using hormonal birth control.
Both DeVilbiss and Yontz noted that prescriptions for hormonal contraception with the purpose of managing medical issues will continue to be offered at the Wittenberg Health Center. In addition, the Health Center will continue to offer HIV screenings twice a week. Student Development is also offering free condoms in a station directly outside the Health Center.
DeVilbiss said that the partnership came about in order to provide better services to students, which includes more hours of operation, electronic medical charts, still forthcoming, the ability to directly bill students’ insurance and access to CMHP network of providers. In addition, Randy Freebourn, vice president for finance and administration, stated that the partnership saves the university between $100,000 and $110,000 annually.
Despite recent changes, Yontz still encourages students to visit the health center. “My goal is that the Health Center remains a safe, accessible place to have open discussions about any health-related issues that students may be facing,” said Yontz.
With the new partnership, the Wittenberg Health Center is open five days a week.