By Tia Lynn Lecorchick staff writer

Back in July, the state of Georgia lost the federal Title X grant of the Public Health Service Act, which funds the family planning services of public or private nonprofit organizations across the county. For Georgia, it’s an $8.4 million loss in family planning funding, which means the Northeast Georgia Health district (Morgan County’s district) is losing approximately $650,000 for family planning funding. Georgia had been a recipient of the grant since 1970.

In the wake of the grant loss, The Morgan County Board of Health (BOH) met on August 11 to review a presentation by Dr. Claude Burnett, medical director of the Northeast Georgia Health District, analyzing the vital need of family planning throughout the region, who recommended health departments contacting the Georgia legislature to work towards eventually getting the grant back. “Even though we have lost this funding, we want people to know that Family Planning is still what we do,” said Leah Ainslie, nurse practitioner for the health department. “In public health, we are still seeing our same patients. We are not turning away anyone.

We are still in the family planning business. But how we handle the financial funding is changing.” “We are rearranging our funding to maintain our family planning services,” said Burnett. Burnett also lamented the meager amount of state funding allotted to Georgia for family planning, compared to state funding in surrounding states. North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina receive between $1 million and $30 million in state funding for family planning, while Georgia only receives $312,000.

“That’s down right shameful,” said Roseanne Weaver, chair of the BOH. Burnett lamented that the lack funding is dangerously shortsighted when birth control services yielded an estimated savings almost $18.5 million in the Northeast Health District in 2013. But the loss of the Title X grant has spurred a renewed emphasis on family planning, specifically ensuring the best and most effective forms of birth control are accessible to all women, in order to reduce overly-rapid population growth and, to ultimately, counteract climate change, according to Burnett.

According to Burnett, birth control has a number of benefits to women, families, the human population and the overall costs of healthcare. The most effective methods of birth control are Nexplanons (birth control implanted in the arm that lasts for three years) and The Copper-T intrauterine device (IUD) that can last up to 10 years.

Ainslie noted that District 10 is the only district in the state that has nurse practitioners on staff to administer Nexplanons and IUDs, as registered nurses (RNs) are not certified to perform the procedure. Burnett told the BOH that the earth simply cannot support the human population if people keep reproducing at such alarmingly quick rates, noting that the world population has tripled since 1930.

Burnett showed the BOH birth rates provided by the Census Bureau from all over the world and compared that data to the birth rates in the United States, specifically in Georgia. “We are headed to a 10 billion world population. That may be an unstoppable process unless we reduce the amount of births for women,” said Burnett. “We have to do our part to reduce population growth here.” “Birth control is vital in holding off population growth,” explained Burnett.

“Globally, our resources are dwindling. Water, food, energy and other resources are vital to the survival of the population worldwide.” “We are talking about the survival of the human race,” said Roseanne Weaver, chairman of the BOH. Burnett reminded the BOH that overpopulation is inextricably tied to climate change. “As the population has gone up in the world, so has the carbon dioxide levels,” explained Burnett. “Carbon dioxide acts like a blanket around the earth and keeps it warmer.

Light radiates in, but it’s not getting back out like it should.” In light of this knowledge, Burnett encouraged the BOH to make family planning an even higher priority than it has been in past years.

While family planning includes encouraging abstinence and family communication, effective and accessible birth control is the most essential resource to help women space out their children and reduce the overall number of children they have in their lifetimes.

Mayor Fred Perriman was receptive to Burnett’s birth control emphasis in family planning. “People need to know how important this health department is to the community,” said Perriman. For more information about family planning, contact the Morgan County Health Department at: 706 752-1266.