When I was in my 20s and just starting out as an engineering lab technician, I relied on Planned Parenthood Mar Monte in Fresno for health care. I’m guessing we all know someone who has gone to Planned Parenthood for medical services and been grateful that it’s there.
This is why it’s so important to support the new Planned Parenthood health center that’s set to open in Visalia on South Mooney Blvd.
The new center will be much larger than the one Planned Parenthood has successfully operated for years in Visalia. And we need it. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2019 report on women’s health, Tulare County residents have among the lowest income levels in the state, and the county is near last place in number of health care providers per resident. We also have among the state’s highest rates of STIs and unintended pregnancies.
The conditional use permit (CUP) for this new site was approved unanimously by the Visalia planning commission. The health center is also aligned with the 2017-2022 Tulare County Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) and is vital to people who live here.
However, a neighboring property owner has objected to the health center and filed an appeal to block it because he says there will be parking congestion. But the planning commission already closely studied how the center would impact the neighborhood and found no issue with parking. As you know, there is plenty of parking at the Sequoia Mall, near the site’s location.
Now, the Visalia City Council is set to vote at their February 7 meeting whether to allow the health center to open its doors at the Mooney location. And the answer should be clear. [Editor’s note: the meeting most likely has been continued. New date TBA.]
Consider that this health new center will have 10 health care providers and will be open Monday through Saturday for people who have a hard time getting to the doctor when they have full-time jobs or kids at home. Imagine how many people in our county will be able to get health care who wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere else.
Like me, are you a past Planned Parenthood patient? Do you want these services available to all of us, our children, and our grandchildren? I do.
Have you driven by any of the hamlets in Tulare County lately, where tough times and a long drought may mean money has run out? You can guess that health care may seem like a luxury for people there, when they are struggling just to buy bottled water since their wells have dried up or were contaminated. Don’t they deserve to have access to care at this new health center – quality preventive care that they can afford?
Everyone is welcome at Planned Parenthood, regardless of income, insurance, or zip code. This should be especially important to people who live here, considering a recent study found that about 70 percent of patients at Planned Parenthood’s current, much smaller Visalia health center are living at the federal poverty level – barely over $24,000 a year for a family of four.
As a member of our community, I believe we can and should support our neighbors, especially those who have been battered by the pandemic and the drought, by standing up for affordable access health care that everyone deserves. It’s essential and compassionate care for all of us, and that’s what makes communities strong.
I urge you to join me, and contact your Visalia City Council member to support granting a conditional use permit to Planned Parenthood’s new health center in our city.