The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.EXPAND
The aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys.
Photo by Zachary Fagenson

After Irma and Maria, Planned Parenthood Offers Free Emergency Services in Florida

When disaster strikes, health care is often one of the first things to slip through the cracks as unexpected expenses pile up. That’s especially true for sexual and reproductive health care.

So after Hurricane Irma battered Florida and Hurricane Maria sent more than 139,000 Puerto Ricans fleeing to the Sunshine State, Planned Parenthood’s Florida affiliates have launched a hurricane emergency fund to assist everyone affected by the disasters. Through a privately funded grant, the nonprofit’s 21 Florida locations are offering birth control, Plan B, and services such as testing and treatment for infections, all free of charge.

“People that are low-income or really on a tight budget, when these things happen, it can affect them for months and months on end,” says Christina Noce, communications director for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida.

Funding came from the JPB Foundation, a philanthropic organization founded by Barbara Picower, the widow of the biggest beneficiary of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, after she agreed to pay $7.2 billion to Madoff’s victims. The foundation specializes in part in reproductive rights, and Planned Parenthood President and CEO Cecile Richards sits on the board. The amount of the donation was not disclosed.

Already, one local affiliate has treated 450 people through the fund, which became available several weeks ago and should remain for weeks to come for those who qualify.

Corinne Kirkland, a nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood’s Kendall branch, says she’s seen scores of patients who are struggling after the storms. Some lost their jobs after evacuating, while others are paying for damage to their homes.

For those who were already cash-strapped, the extra costs could have put needed sexual and reproductive health care out of reach.

“They just don’t have any flexibility,” Kirkland says. “This fund is very helpful. Patients are very grateful.”

To learn more about Planned Parenthood’s emergency fund, visit plannedparenthood.org. Call 800-230-PLAN to make an appointment.

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