In a highly unusual move, the national Planned Parenthood Federation will cancel its affiliation with a network of clinics serving six Bay Area counties, including Alameda and San Mateo, because of financial and administrative problems.
Planned Parenthood Golden Gate's finances have steadily worsened in recent years. Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service reveal it broke even in 2005-06, but ended 2008-09 with a $2.8 million deficit.
As of Sept. 3, it can no longer use the Planned Parenthood name. It can continue providing services, but without the benefits that come from affiliation with a large organization, including price reductions negotiated with suppliers.
At the urging of national leaders, Planned Parenthood affiliates in Concord and San Jose are scurrying to expand into the region now served by the disaffiliated group.
"We are doing everything as quickly as possible to ensure people do not lose continuity of care," said Deborah Ortiz, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, based in San Jose.
Planned Parenthood Golden Gate has provided reproductive health services to women, men and teens for more than 80 years. It serves nearly 50,000 clients at seven health centers and one satellite location in Alameda, San Mateo, San Francisco, Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties. All the groups are nonprofit entities.
East Bay health leaders are watching the change closely, concerned about how the change might affect people seeking family planning, birth control, abortion, gynecological services, HIV tests, screening for sexually transmitted diseases and other services.
"My hope is that the transition goes smoothly and that services are not impacted," said Tanir Ami, executive director of the Community Clinic Consortium in Contra Costa and Solano counties.
With other Planned Parenthood groups moving into the area and the possibility that the disaffiliated group will remain in operation, Ami is optimistic.
"I feel confident that women will continue to be served adequately," she said.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America declined to reveal details about what led to the split. The organization monitors its affiliates and sets standards they must meet.
"The fiscal and administrative challenges related to this restructuring of local services emerged over the last couple of years and the national office worked closely with the affiliate to try to find solutions to address the issues," said Karen Ruffatto, vice president of affiliate services for the national organization, in a written statement.
A Planned Parenthood representative said it is rare for the organization to take such action.
Therese Wilson, interim CEO for Planned Parenthood Golden Gate, did not return repeated phone calls last week. She has told others the organization plans to continue providing services and is having a staff contest to come up with a new name.
But whether it can overcome serious financial difficulties remains to be seen. Documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service reveal a growing struggle to make ends meet.
After breaking even in 2005-06, the organization posted a $181,000 deficit in 2006-07, a $1.8 million deficit in 2007-08, and a $2.8 million deficit in 2008-09.
Other Bay Area affiliates are on a much stronger financial footing, the documents reveal.
Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo, based in Concord, ended 2008 with a $3 million surplus of revenue over expenses.
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte also had a $3 million surplus for 2007-08.
Wilson took over Planned Parenthood Golden Gate in January, when longtime CEO Dian Harrison went on medical leave. It is unclear when or if Harrison will return, or whether she has drawn her full salary during the eight months of medical leave.
Harrison received a base salary of $309,496 in 2008-09, nontaxable benefits of $16,446 and deferred compensation of $16,000, bringing her total compensation to $341,942, according to IRS documents.
Planned Parenthood Mar Monte will now expand into Alameda and San Mateo counties. Officials there are moving quickly to determine which areas have the greatest need and to search for locations.
They have been looking at sites in Oakland, Hayward, Daly City, San Mateo and Half Moon Bay, Ortiz said.
Mar Monte is one of the largest Planned Parenthood affiliates in the nation. It serves nearly 250,000 people at 34 health centers and 25 satellite sites in California and northern Nevada.
The goal is to expand into the two counties during the next two to six months, starting with satellites and gradually opening full health centers. A satellite center has limited services but can typically do pregnancy tests, dispense oral contraceptives and screen for sexually transmitted infections.
As it has done elsewhere, Mar Monte is looking for opportunities to share space with community organizations.
"There's a sense that there's been a lot of unmet need," Ortiz said. "We're real optimistic in terms of the communities welcoming Planned Parenthood."
Mar Monte may also expand its Tracy health center and San Jose locations to make room for new clients coming from Alameda and San Mateo counties, Ortiz said.
To find a nearby center, go to www.plannedparenthood.org/mar-monte/contact-us.htm and enter their ZIP code. Because the Golden Gate centers will be included on this website until Sept. 3, Ortiz advises people who want to remain with Planned Parenthood to pay attention to which organization is operating each center.
Those who call 800-230-7526 will automatically be transferred to the nearest center, which until Sept. 3 will include Golden Gate centers.
Leaders of Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo also are scrambling to find sites, team up with community partners and hire additional staff as they assume responsibility for San Francisco, Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties.
Shasta-Diablo operates 17 health centers and numerous satellite sites in 13 Northern California counties, including Contra Costa and Solano.
"We are currently negotiating leases in Marin and Sonoma counties, and looking as hard as we can in San Francisco," said Mitzi Sales, senior vice president for external affairs. "We're moving as quickly as we can."
The group hopes to have several leases signed by Sept. 1 and have satellite centers open in October, Sales said. Several foundations have indicated they will help support the expansion.
"It's an interesting, exciting and, in some ways, a very daunting task," Sales said.
Contact Sandy Kleffman at 925-943-8249.
Go online or call to find a nearby reproductive health center. If you prefer to stay with Planned Parenthood, you should pay attention to which organization operates the center.
Until Sept. 3, the website and phone number below will list both the centers that are losing affiliation (those operated by Planned Parenthood Golden Gate) and the centers that will remain part of Planned Parenthood (those operated by Planned Parenthood Mar Monte and Planned Parenthood Shasta-Diablo).
To find the closest center: