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New Planned Parenthood health center finds its footing in Flossmoor

You have to get buzzed in through the locked door of the new Planned Parenthood Flossmoor health center in order to enter. However, that’s about the only noticeable distinction between it and any other medical office. Patients check in at the registration desk and then take a seat in the large waiting area.

You have to get buzzed in through the locked door of the new Planned Parenthood Flossmoor health center in order to enter. However, that’s about the only noticeable distinction between it and any other medical office. Patients check in at the registration desk and then take a seat in the large waiting area.
The 12,000-square-foot facility features honey-colored wood floors and framed photos of flowers on the wall. Clinicians buzz back and forth, entering treatment rooms and working in the on-site lab.
There is, in many people’s minds, one major factor that sets this health center apart from most others in the South Suburbs. Along with an extensive slate of other services, the health center offers abortion care services.
The health center’s manager, Nicole Herron, said people are remiss to think Planned Parenthood only offers or concentrates on that one service.
“I feel like a lot of people focus on the abortion care we provide and they are unaware of the other services we provide such as the testing, mammogram referrals, Pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, birth control and cross-hormone therapy services,” Herron said.
A full description of the center’s services is available at its website and people can also come in to get a list of the services, said Herron, who has worked for Planned Parenthood for nine years.
The health center is staffed by clinicians and medical doctors, and Herron stressed that every law and regulation is met by the facility in regards to the services it performs.
Encouraging conversation among families
One major part of the health center’s role is to offer a place for education and counseling, and provide referrals for other medical and social services. Any person can visit with a clinician to discuss their sexual and reproductive health. If a woman is pregnant, she can also discuss her situation and options with a clinician. 
In accordance with the Illinois Birth Control Services to Minors Act, minors as young as 12 can go into the center on their own if they are pregnant or meet certain other criteria. They can procure birth control and other sexual and reproductive health information, but they cannot get abortion care without parental consent. 
Regardless of what brings a young person into the health center, Herron said clinicians try to bring the patient’s parents into the conversation.
“We encourage them to speak to their parents and guardians,” she said. “They should be comfortable to go to that person to discuss their reproductive health and get some support. We do try to facilitate positive relationships. They can bring in their parent and we can help them with that conversation.”

Filling an ‘unmet need’ in the South Suburbs
Julie Lynn, manager of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Illinois, said all the services the medical center offers are in line with the nonprofit’s mission to provide high quality, accessible and affordable health care to the communities it serves. 
Lynn said Flossmoor was a great location for the medical center. It is centralized for the 1,200 residents of south Cook County who were already regular patients at other Planned Parenthood locations, including the health center in Orland Park.
“There was clearly an unmet need,” Lynn said. “Patients shouldn’t have to travel to fill their birth control or have their annual exam or have any kind of health service. We wanted to eliminate that need by having a health center there.”
She said Planned Parenthood health centers are also unique in offering transgender hormone therapy and the HIV-prevention drug PReP, 21st-century treatments being offered by the century-old medical nonprofit.
“Planned Parenthood has been around for over 100 years,” Lynn said. “We are such a trusted name in providing quality health care that generations of patients have been coming to us. That’s a testament to our staff and our services. 
“Recently a lot of people have been coming to Planned Parenthood because we’re in the news. They’re continuing to come back. These are patients with and without insurance, and they’re coming at any age. They know it’s an important organization and they want to support it.”

Ultrasounds, options and decisions
Within the health center, there are counseling rooms, treatment rooms and a large recovery room that is staffed by nurses. There are also three ultrasound rooms, where clinicians can confirm a pregnancy and do gestational aging, Herron said. If women get a positive pregnancy test, they can see how far along they are. If they have symptoms of pregnancy but test negative, they can verify their suspicion. 
If a woman wants to, she can watch the screen on the ultrasound machine and get photo printouts, but Herron said she doesn’t have to.
“We don’t want to overstep any boundaries,” she said. “It’s her choice. If she lets us know that’s what she wants to do, we definitely will oblige her.”
The health center accepts many different insurance plans, but patients don’t need to be insured to get help. Herron said there is no one typical Planned Parenthood patient. They are of multiple ages, demographics and socioeconomic standings. Men’s services are also available.
Helping parents discuss sexual health
Parents can bring their children to the center to learn facts about sexual and reproductive health. According to Paula Thornton Greear, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Illinois, community residents who were engaged by the agency said this specific service was needed in the South Suburbs.
“One thing we continued to hear — people wanted to know how parents and grandparents can have the conversation about reproductive health and sexual health with the young people in their lives,” Greear said. “We’re happy Planned Parenthood is here so they can get informed.”
Greear heard it directly from residents who are members of the nonprofit’s Community Health Care Advisory Committee. What Greear calls a “diverse” group consists of about 25 community members who are interested in offering their input and learning more about Planned Parenthood’s mission and connection to the community.
“They’re a wonderful group of people who are deeply engaged,” Greear said. “They are really committed to learning more about Planned Parenthood. They know that their thoughts about what they wanted to see have been incorporated here.”
According to Lynn, in the last year Planned Parenthood saw more than 65,000 patients at its 16 health centers throughout the state. The Flossmoor health center is currently seeing about 20 patients per day, said Herron, and that number is expected to grow.

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