Access to basic reproductive health care services in Vernon County is about to get a little easier starting on Sept. 5. A grand opening ceremony was held for a new clinic in downtown Viroqua on August 22nd for the latest addition to the Options Clinic organization. A number of public officials attended the event including Viroqua Mayor Larry Fanta, Third District Congressman Ron Kind, State Rep. Jennifer Shilling and Former Lt Gov. Barbara Lawton.
Options Clinic is actually a 40 plus year old organization with locations La Crosse, Monroe, Crawford, Richland and now Vernon Counties but they also serve individuals from the greater tri-state area (Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa). The clinics offer annual exams, breast and cervical cancer screenings, FDA approved birth control methods, STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and counseling and emergency contraception.
Beth Hartung is the executive director of the organization and said the services are crucial for a rural community such as Vernon County and the addition of the clinic to Viroqua will greatly improve access to services for those who would normally have to drive to La Crosse or Prairie du Chien. ]
“Our roots are actually in Viroqua,” Hartung said ” We opened our first clinic in the old Dahl Pharmacy building just down the street so we have been serving the residents of Vernon County for a long time but we haven’t had a clinic here.”
And Hartung said 80 percent of their patients do not have health insurance and those who come to the clinic pay on a sliding scale so everyone pays based on their ability to pay.
The new clinic is in the old Dahl Pharmacy building next to Blue Dog Cycle. Hartung said the clinic will open on Sept. 5 and be open every Thursday from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Former Lt. Governor Lawton said the clinics services are crucial for a county like Vernon County.
“When there are still too many people without health insurance and many people still unemployed something like this is very important.” said Lawton.” If you are not healthy you cant keep a job.”
And Lawton said the access to such services seems to be under attack lately.
“At a time when the amount of legislation limiting women’s access to reproductive healthcare is unprecedented,” said Lawton “Even limitng acess to contraception even when we know it wouldn’t be healthy for women to have 12- 18 live births in their lifetime which is what you would have in a lifetime without access to contraception. we would like to think we are not moving backwards, that we recognize that women’s reproductive organs are the center of her body and the center of her healthcare. Why the boys at the state level or the federal level, and it is primarily the men who are doing the negotiating over the center of our bodies and all we want to do is live healthy and live productive lives.”
Hartung said the clinic set a goal of raising $50,000 to operate the clinic and so far they have raised about half of that amount.
If you want more information you can find Options Clinic on the web at www.optionsclinic.org