"This is a tough choice, but it is the right choice."
Those are the words of Adrienne Mansanares, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, discussing the closure of the physical address of the non-profit sexual and reproductive health clinic. "Over the past few years, we have had to make some really challenging decisions about where our footprint is physically."
Mansanares said their decision was focused on two things: Staffing and demographics of patients they could serve there.
"The population has been skewing older and higher income and so with our mission as a nonprofit healthcare organization, we take that into consideration," Mansanares explained. "The vast majority of our clients are in their 20's"
This does not sit well with Kelly Clapsaddle Suber, former health center manager for Planned Parenthood in Steamboat Springs. She said there is a population that is being left behind, and while there will be other providers in the Yampa Valley, they won't operate the way Planned Parenthood did.
"There is no abortion care in Steamboat, they can do it over telehealth, but it's not the same," Suber said.
Planned Parenthood in Steamboat never offered surgical abortions but was able to help with pharmaceutical avenues. Suber said that's still possible with telehealth, but that kind of discussion shouldn't be had over the computer or phone, but in person. She also said the care and treatment of LGBTQ+ patients was something she was incredibly proud of, and while she knows there are still other clinics that can help, she said something will be missing without Planned Parenthood.
"Finding other health care will be more challenging," Suber said.
That issue of finding care is a large part of what Mansanares said pushed them to move resources to other locations, like Southern New Mexico and Las Vegas with larger low-income minority populations who could benefit from expanding health center hours.
"The facts of the data demonstrate that we are not needed in Steamboat Springs, where the population is 94% white, where the median income is upwards of $85,000 a year," Mansanares said. "We are needed in places across our region where healthcare and the gaps span along the racial and economic lines demand that Planned Parenthood are in the communities that need us most."
Suber said the need in Steamboat is not that simple to qualify with a changing landscape across the country for reproductive rights. Suber doesn't believe that the community has seen the full extent of what that change will mean for demand for services and said she was disappointed they wouldn't have the chance to try to rise to the occasion to help now that the location is closed.
She said she also wishes she had had more notice about the closure, figuring she could have fought to fix the issues Planned Parenthood saw in the location to save it from closing.
"At this point in history, they should have the bandwidth to support both locations," Suber told Wilson regarding the movement of resources to other clinics in the region.
Mountain Newsroom Reporter Spencer Wilson asked Mansanares if she believed there would be patients "left behind" in Steamboat because of the closure.
"I certainly hope not," Mansanares said. "Anytime a Planned Parenthood has to close a location it is an incredibly challenging for the community."
"A hard decision but in terms of the actual impact on patients, we feel really confident that many folks will continue to receive their care via telehealth or by a local provider there in town."
CBS News Colorado confirmed the next closest Planned Parenthood locations are in Glenwood Springs and Denver. While Suber said she believed rural health in her community was being left behind, Mansanares said their ability to do care long distance will play a big part in their continued support of places like Steamboat Springs, even as they close their physical doors.
"Planned Parenthood is still here, that we are still trusted community partners that our telehealth care and our partners with other providers are genuine and real," Mansanares said.
for more features.