Run for the clinic 

On Saturday, Oct. 2, 604 people ran in the Blue Mountain Clinic’s 21st annual All Women’s Run, stretching their legs in support of the nonprofit reproductive and family health care agency. The race is the clinic’s only annual fund-raising event, says Blue Mountain’s Cherie Garcelon, and this year, runners raised roughly $5,000 in support of the nonprofit clinic.

Blue Mountain Clinic is one of five abortion providers in Montana. Ten years ago, says Blue Mountain Executive Director Raquel Castellaños, Montana had 12 abortion providers.

The decreasing access to abortion services statewide correpsonds with national trends. In 1982, according to The Alan Guttmacher Institute, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit organization focused on reproductive health research and policy, 1,405 hospitals provided abortions nationwide. By 2000, that figure had fallen to 603. By the same year, the total number of abortion providers nationwide—including clinics and physicians’ offices—had dropped from 2,907 to 1,819.

Nancy McCourt, president of the Blue Mountain board, believes that decreased access to abortion stems from a society that takes those services for granted.

“We don’t talk about coat hangers anymore,” says McCourt. The decreased access to abortion services, however, may be indicative of a larger problem in the health care industry. Health care clinics, including nonprofit clinics like Blue Mountain, have seen insurance fees go through the roof.

“It’s a crisis in the health care industry right now,” says Executive Director Castellaños.

This year, the clinic’s malpractice insurance doubled, she says, and its property insurance provider is going out of business. As a result, Castellaños estimates that she’ll need to add “easily $20,000” to the $140,000 for which she planned to fundraise in 2004. The clinic’s 2004 budget is $980,000.

In 2003, the clinic saw close to 13,000 patient visits, of which 2,300 visits were men. Castellaños reports that between 5 and 8 percent of the clinic’s services are related to abortion. She says most of the services provided focus on family practice.

While costs increase, many patients’ ability to pay decreases. Currently, Medicaid reimburses the clinic at 52 percent of its cost, says the clinic’s Cherie Garcelon. Reimbursement rates, she says have been steadily dropping for the past four years.

“We’re chugging along,” says Castellaños, “but it’s really tight, it’s really hard.”

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