QUINCY -- Facing another year of stagnant federal funding, a Quincy health care organization is hoping to raise $10,000 from local donors in order to be able to continue its work combating what health care officials are calling an epidemic of sexually transmitted infections.
"We still don't know what our funding is going to be this year," said Phillip Begley, who has served as executive director for Pathway Health Clinic for three years. "We can speculate based upon last year's numbers, but then we find out those numbers are less."
Pathway Health Clinic, formerly known as Family Planning, is at 636 Hampshire in Quincy, on the second-floor of the First Mid Bank and Trust building.
The clinic, which provides wellness exams, STI screening and treatment, cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling, receives about one-fourth of its annual funding from the federal government through a program known as Title X. The clinic also provides educational programs a Quincy High School and Culver-Stockton College in Canton, Mo.
Title X was created in the 1970s and is the only federal grant program directed solely at providing comprehensive family planning and related reproductive health services.
According to information from Pathway Health Clinic, the federal government's funding of health clinics like Pathway has drastically fallen since 2010 when the funding was $317 million for the nation's clinics. Since then, the funding has been slashed to $286 million.
"Larger metro area clinics get more of the pie and then those downstate get smaller pieces of the pie," Begley said. Last year, Pathway requested $160,000 in federal funding. They were initially notified by the federal government that they would only be receiving $78,600. On an appeal, the state government awarded the Quincy clinic an additional $16,000, which Begley said was just enough to help the clinic get through the final two months of the fiscal year.
In addition to the Title X funding, the clinic also relies on private donations throughout the year. Those donations have never exceeded $5,000, Begley said.
He is hopeful that by making a more organized push for private donations this year -- using public service announcements and advertising -- that the clinic will raise $10,000.
Begley said he hopes to one day raise more than $10,000, which he said would allow the clinic to potentially purchase a mobile health unit, which would drastically increase the clinic's coverage area into Hancock and McDonough counties.
"We know there are a number of people that live in those counties who do not have the financial resources to come to Quincy," Begley said. In the meantime, raising the money would help to narrow the gap between the clinic's expenses and the shortfall of federal dollars, which Begley said is not "keeping pace with the rising costs of health care."
Begley said part of the blame for the stagnant funding is the "political football" game being played over reproductive health care, or more specifically over abortion.
"Abortion is part of reproductive health care, but it is a very small piece of it," Begley said. Pathway Health Clinic does not provide abortion services.
It does provide pregnancy testing and counseling services. "Because abortion is the most controversial piece, no one seems to care about the other pieces that should be considered."
He said he worries that decision makers within the federal government are ignoring key parts of reproductive health.
"There is no talk about the STI epidemic, no talk about contraceptives, no talk about family planning," Begley said. "We need to focus on the STI epidemic, we need to be focusing our resources on trying to prevent the spreading of STIs."
According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were more than 1.7 million diagnosed cases of chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea in 2013. Four years later, the number of diagnosed cases had increased to 2.3 million.
"Illinois ranks sixth in the number of HIV cases," Begley said. "Hepatitis A, B and C are all here in the Midwest, and those numbers are growing."