Colleges without care: Los Rios students left without women-centric health services following clinic closure

Students start Feminists United Club to confront expanding loss of reproductive health care

This is an extended version of a story that appeared in the October 12, 2017, issue.

President Donald Trump may be continuing his mission to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, but thousands of women across the Los Rios Community College District are already without access to health care services on campus—and they’ll remain so for the foreseeable future.

In March, Women’s Health Specialists, a nonprofit clinic that had partnered with Los Rios, shuttered its Sacramento branch. The closure left the district’s campuses without a female-centric health provider. Since then, American River College, Sacramento City College, Cosumnes River College and Folsom Lake College have all scrambled to replace these services.

Women’s Health Specialists announced it was ending local services in December due to low Medi-Cal reimbursement rates. The development is now compounded by the Trump administration’s decision to let employers opt out of providing contraceptive health care on religious grounds.

Under its partnership with Women’s Health Specialists, Los Rios was able provide birth control, emergency contraceptives, STD testing, pregnancy testing and prescriptions for the women attending classes across the 2,400 square miles that make up its district. As of now, the only contraception services that American River College can offer students are condoms and a referral to an outside clinic.

American River College spokesman Scott Crow stressed that Los Rios is determined to find a high-quality replacement. “We’re trying to find the [outside referrals] that are the most convenient,” Crow said.

For students, the lack of services is having an impact.

“With [Women’s Health Services] gone now, it creates an air of panic,” said Samantha Thor, who attend Sacramento City College. “Now, if we are in need of services, we have to plan our day around it, and figure out how we’re going to get to wherever they send us. It’s frustrating.”

American River College student Elena DeNecochea used the lack of services to start a club on campus: Feminists United. “I think it’s crazy that they charge you for tampons but they give you free condoms,” DeNecochea said. “They will put more money into funding a new stadium or a gym, but not for women’s health care.”

The Feminists United Club went as far as attempting to donate money directly to the school to reinstitute pap smears.

“Legally they couldn’t take the money,” DeNecochea observed, adding the school said her group could purchase pregnancy tests and donate them to the health clinic. “Ideally, I would like to help out our campus,” she said, “but I just don’t know if they are going to let me at this point.”