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Clinics bridge birth control gaps after Cottage Hospital closure

Ashley German is executive director of Family Planning Services of Western Illinois. The non-profit sexual health clinic saw many new clients following the closure of Galesburg's Cottage Hospital.
Eleanor Lindenmayer
Tri States Public Radio
Ashley German is executive director of Family Planning Services of Western Illinois. The non-profit sexual health clinic saw many new clients following the closure of Galesburg's Cottage Hospital.

Several clinics, new and old, have stepped up to fill the gap in Galesburg and Monmouth.

When Galesburg’s Cottage Hospital closed in January of 2022 and its affiliated clinics all closed within a few months later, Galesburg and the surrounding area were left with OSF HealthCare as the primary provider.

While OSF stepped up in multiple ways and assured the community they were well equipped to handle the increased demand, there is one area of health care they do not cover: birth control.

OSF HealthCare is a Catholic ministry. A spokesperson told TSPR they offer fertility awareness-based methods of family planning, but “do not promote contraceptive practices.”

Before Cottage closed, most members of the community wanting this type of healthcare would receive it at Cottage’s women’s health clinic in Galesburg or the Cottage clinic in Monmouth.

Nearly 43% of women in the United States were using some form of birth control in 2022, including the pill, longer acting reversibles -- like the IUD or implant -- and tubal ligation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

With the closure of Cottage, this service was interrupted for the people of Galesburg and Monmouth who were unable to drive to Peoria or the Quad Cities for services.

Several clinics, new and old, have stepped up to fill the gap.

“It was interesting to see how it played out,” said Ashley German, executive director of Family Planning Services of Western Illinois. “We were expecting this mad influx all at once, but what we saw was more the women who already had their annuals planned, or they were going in for their shot, or a refill on birth control, and they no longer had that option.”

Family Planning Services has been serving Galesburg and the surrounding area since 1976. They are a non-profit clinic that focuses on sexual health for people of all genders and identities. They provide pap smears, pelvic and breast exams, all the sexually transmitted infection tests, as well as all FDA approved birth control methods that are currently on the market, including Plan B.

German said they take all health insurance and provide all services at little to no cost.

German said the clinic saw many new patients in May and June after Cottage’s women’s health clinic closed, as people realized there was nowhere else in town to go for birth control services.

Later in the year, two new clinics opened in Galesburg.

Family Planning Services is building a relationship with the Graham Medical Group Clinic, which opened in Galesburg in September. Graham has an on-site women’s health provider and offers all FDA-approved birth control options.

“We are lucky to have Graham hospital here who has the same philosophy as us,” said German. “Sometimes there’s reproductive care that needs further evaluation that we can’t do so we want to be able to provide that easy referral process to everyone who comes in our door.”

Solvera Health opened their Galesburg clinic in July and offers the pill, the patch, the vaginal ring, the implant, but not the IUD.

In Monmouth, the responsibility has fallen on two new clinics.

In October, McDonough District Hospital opened a Convenience Clinic in the space vacated by Cottage’s former clinic in Monmouth.

MDH offers obstetrics and gynecology once a month, and some birth control options can be prescribed by their nurse practitioner.

Oquawka-based Eagle View Community Health Systems opened their clinic in downtown Monmouth in early 2023. They had been planning on moving to Monmouth for some time, and the closure of Cottage spurred them into completing the process.

Eagle View, like Family Planning Services, aims to support the underserved populations in western Illinois. They offer comprehensive and affordable healthcare, and for reproductive services they offer the pill, the implant, the shot, and IUDs.

“With the closing of Cottage, there was a significant decrease in the ability to access birth control,” said Emily Higgins, public relations coordinator for Eagle View. “Due to so many individuals being left without their primary care provider seemingly overnight, other health organizations in the area soon found themselves overrun with patients who needed appointments.”

Historically, both Eagle View and Family Planning Services have served a largely younger and lower income population, but with the closure of Cottage Hospital, that seems to be shifting.

“We are finding that our population ages have changed,” said German. “It always used to be high school or college, but now we are into the 30, 35, 40 age range of women. They’re done having kids, but they haven’t hit menopause yet so they’re still needing care.”

German said Family Planning Services has done a lot of community outreach lately and the organization is working on an expansion.

They are working with Graham Hospital to offer services on the Knox College campus, and are in the process of developing a mobile unit so they can bring the care to the people who need it most.

“We try to bridge those gaps,” she said, “because we do see clients from all over.”

Higgins echoed this sentiment.

“We believe that everyone deserves to have access to these important services,” she said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Eleanor Lindenmayer is a journalism major at Knox College.