Clinic Launches Innovative Outreach Campaign
To reach people who require your help, sometimes you have to get creative. That’s what Tioga Opportunities, Inc. was doing in 2015 when it started a three-pronged effort to connect with people who need contraceptives, health screenings, family planning education and related services.
“We’re trying to meet people where they’re at,” says Marlaina Allen, family planning health educator at Tioga Opportunities.
The Tioga Opportunities Family Planning clinic is the only facility in the county supported through the U.S. Title X program, which funds family planning services for low-income families and the uninsured. There’s a big need for those services, says Allen. “A large population throughout Tioga County qualifies for free or significantly reduced-cost reproductive health care.” But the Owego-based clinic has seen only a small portion of those residents. The demise of public transportation in the rural county makes access especially difficult.
The new initiative, developed with $10,000 in support from the Community Foundation, began with a Facebook page. “We started the social media campaign to reach all age populations and genders throughout Tioga County,” Allen says.
The second part of the program is Tioga County Condom Couriers, which mails condoms, plus other forms of protection against sexually-transmitted disease, to people who can’t visit the clinic. Supplies arrive in an unmarked envelope. “No one would know that it comes from Family Planning,” Allen says.
Third is “Seventeen Days,” a one-on-one educational program that uses an interactive DVD to teach young women how to avoid unintended pregnancies. Staff can use this tool in the clinic, Allen says. “But we’re also looking to do home visits and work with high-risk populations.” Referrals for those visits will come from school guidance counselors, juvenile probation officers and the foster care system.
The clinic’s innovative outreach efforts got a boost last summer from intern Kayla Malarkey, a middle school student from Newark Valley who plans a career as a gynecologist. “She helped me get a sense of how to capture the attention of the younger community throughout the area, before we launched the program,” Allen says. Kayla created an informational display for the clinic’s waiting room. While helping Allen staff the clinic’s table at various community events, she connected easily with teens who stopped by, encouraging them to pick up literature and “like” the Facebook page.
The Foundation’s grant has given the three outreach initiatives a strong start, Allen says. “They’ve been recognized by other agencies, and they’re supported throughout the county. We’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”