Good morning. My name is Ashley Coffield, and I’m the CEO of Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
I’ve brought with me today 1,541 petitions from individuals who support Planned Parenthood’s Free Condoms Memphis program and are concerned about the county’s actions with regard to this program and the public’s health.
Free Condoms Memphis reduces health inequality in our region through a wide-scale condom distribution program and public health campaign.
According to the CDC, condom distribution programs increase condom use, reduce HIV and other STIs among at-risk groups; promote delayed sexual initiation or abstinence among youth; and are cost saving as a result of eliminating future medical care costs for HIV infections.
Planned Parenthood has been a contractor with the county for condom distribution since 2013 and our history shows a clear record of success; success that the county has recognized during site visits, progress reports, and continued support for Planned Parenthood’s management of the program.
Since 2013, Planned Parenthood has distributed 1.7 million condoms in Shelby County. We’re currently distributing about 50,000 per month. We do this through a network of nearly 100 distribution locations. We’ve grown from 46 locations at the end of our first year to 95 locations today. These locations are the kind of places people visit regularly, such as barber shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, bars, night clubs, churches, health clinics, and government and social service agencies. Small businesses distribute many of our condoms; in fact, our top three distribution locations are small businesses.
One way we stretch the funding for Free Condoms Memphis is effective use of volunteers. Each month, we organize a condom packing night that involves up to 20 volunteers who spend 2 hours packing and organizing the month’s condoms for distribution. This effort would take one staff person approximately 40 hours to complete.
In October 2016, we responded to an RFP issued by Shelby County government. In November 2016, we received an award letter from the county. In December 2016, we received a contract from the county, which we signed and returned. It is now February 1, and we have no executed contract from the county for 2017. While the funding and contract remain in limbo, we continue to distribute condoms and incur costs.
Since November, we have relied on Shelby County government to follow through on the funding grant it had awarded to us. We have employees and infrastructure that we must maintain to ensure the success of the program. There are harms to public health if we stop the program. And there are harms to our reputation if we stop since small businesses, non-profit organizations, and colleges and universities are relying on us to continue.
In short, we urge the county not to play politics with public health.
I know we have disagreements about abortion rights, but there is a time and place to have those discussions. I don’t think our disagreements should get in the way of us working together to improve the health and well-being of our community, especially when we all can agree that a program is working well.