The Telluride Regional Medical Center has announced its participation in the Contraceptive Access Change Project, an innovative initiative to bring expanded access to contraceptive health care to more Coloradans.

The Telluride Medical Center was selected along with 10 other Colorado clinics to participate in the two-year learning collaborative funded by Caring for Colorado Foundation and The Colorado Health Foundation.

“Our goal is that every patient, at every visit, has access to the conversations and services needed to plan their families and become parents if and only when they are ready,” said Dr. Sharon Grundy, director of primary care at the Telluride Medical Center.

“Communities are healthier when everyone has access to these essential services,” Grundy said.

News of the grant comes out just as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced last week substantive changes to the Title X Family Planning Program, which, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, could jeopardize access to critical reproductive health care services, including cancer screenings, for thousands of Coloradans.

Locally, the county nursing clinic and the Uncompahgre Medical Center in Norwood receive Title X funds.

According to Dr. Christine Mahoney, the medical center’s women’s health specialist, “when those services are cut, more of the burden will fall on us as the safety net for care and services in the region.”

To improve and sustain access throughout the county despite Title X cuts the medical center has invited the County Nursing Clinic in Telluride to join the effort. As part of the Contraceptive Access Change Project, both organizations will benefit from support from Cicatelli Associates Inc. which brings nearly 40 years of experience promoting sexual and reproductive health to rural areas.

Mahoney is spearheading the project.

“We’re currently assessing existing services, systems, and barriers around contraception access. With expert technical coaching from the project organizers, we expect to be able to deliver accurate, unbiased information about contraceptive options that align with patient preferences, priorities and resources” said Mahoney.

This project follows a successful state-wide initiative addressing access to “long-acting reversible contraceptives” of birth control, which provide effective contraception for an extended period without requiring user action, including, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and subdermal contraceptive implants.

“This initiative has had profound success demonstrating that when barriers to care are diminished, and more access is provided, women can gain significant control over unintended pregnancies,” Mahoney said.

In 2014, IUD and implant use among people in family planning programs grew from 4.5 percent to 29.6 percent as a direct result of the initiative, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

Local implementation of the Contraceptive Access Change Project is scheduled for July.

“Contraceptive services give women the opportunity to plan their lives according to their own dreams and goals. When women have the ability to plan their pregnancies, it’s not only better for their own health, and their children’s health, but the ripple effects go on to positively impact the economy and even future generations.

“That’s empowering,” Mahoney said.