The 5 Q's: Michelle Trupiano highlights effort to increase access to contraceptive services

Michelle Trupiano

Q: What is the Right Time initiative?

A: Deciding if, when and under what circumstances to get pregnant helps women pursue the future they want. The Right Time initiative is making it easier for Missouri women, including those who are uninsured or underinsured, to receive quality contraceptive services by providing free or low-cost birth control to all those who need it.

The Right Time is a six-year initiative that seeks to empower individuals to take control of their own health by improving information about, and removing barriers to, contraceptive services, recognizing that decisions always rest with the patient.

The Right Time is committed to addressing persistent health disparities that exist around unintended pregnancy and marginalized populations. The Right Time is led by the Missouri Family Health Council Inc. and is an initiative of the Missouri Foundation for Health.

Q: Why do you believe it's important for women to have access to contraceptive services?

A: Aside from the health and economic benefits of contraceptive access for women, reducing unintended pregnancy helps decrease health inequalities and improves health equity.

One of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades has been the historic declines in unintended pregnancy. Still, 51% of women in Missouri describe their pregnancies as unintended. The Right Time seeks to empower women so they’re better able to achieve the goals they have set for themselves.

Q: What barriers do women face in Missouri when trying to find contraceptive services?

A: One of the major barriers Missourians face when accessing contraceptive services is cost. As the Guttmacher Institute notes, many women would need to pay more than $1,000 to start using IUDs or the implant — nearly one month’s salary for a woman working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Additionally, there are considerable knowledge gaps when it comes to contraception. For example, just 47% of Missouri residents (ages) 18-29 say they are “extremely” or “very knowledgeable” about birth control pills, the most commonly used method of contraception.

Q: The U.S. Supreme Court recently voted in a 7-2 decision to allow employers with religious or moral objections the ability to limit women’s access to birth control coverage under the Affordable Care Act. How does this impact the Right Time initiative?

A: The July 8 Supreme Court decision could result in 126,000 women losing contraceptive coverage nationwide, costing each $584 annually, according to estimates from the Department of Health and Human Services. In Missouri, 70% of residents overwhelmingly support policies that make it easier for all residents to get the full range of FDA-approved methods of birth control.

The unfortunate truth is that the Supreme Court decision will make contraception too expensive for some women to afford. The Right Time expands access to affordable, quality contraceptive services and comes at a time when a growing number of people are struggling to make ends meet.

Q: How has the Right Time initiative been working with area health centers?

A: Health care providers are the most trusted source among individuals when it comes to helping them find a birth control method that’s right for them, which is why we’re proud to work with participating health centers to ensure they have all the necessary training and support to provide patient education and birth control services within their community.

Many providers, including those at community-based health centers that provide primary care services in underserved areas (known as federally qualified health centers), say they simply do not have the information, knowledge or resources to confidently recommend and/or offer the full range of birth control options. The Right Time works to change that.

Currently, there are 12 partner health centers in 32 locations throughout Missouri, including Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri in Joplin.

Michelle Trupiano is the executive director for the Missouri Family Heath Council Inc.