KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A non-profit organization in Kalamazoo County launched what they say is the nation's first comprehensive reproductive health fund.
"We are here to be solution oriented and create systems change," said Demetrias Wolverton, the YWCA Kalamazoo Director of Mission Impact.
The YWCA Kalamazoo introduced a two-year pilot program to expand services to low-income, indigenous, people of color and undocumented people as well as those in the LGBTQIA+ community.
"Unfortunately essential healthcare services like a doula, abortion and gender affirming care are not covered by insurance. It forces a lot of people to pay for those things out of pocket," said Wolverton.
After assessing the need for many years, the YWCA saw there were gaps in services for many of the people they served, and wanted to address it.
One specific area they noticed was the black infant mortality rates being three times higher than white neighbors.
That is how Erica Guthaus with Red Birth Green, a division of Rootead Enrichment Center came on board.
"For us to be able to come in and level that playing field, and offer something that is generally only available to people who have a lot of disposable income to access that level of support, is honestly, I think it is probably unprecedented in a lot of communities," said Erica Guthaus, the Director of Red Birth Green at Rootead Enrichment Center.
"People should not have to face the impossible choice between choosing for a basic need such as groceries and paying for their healthcare services," said Wolverton.
While they are being funded by mainly national partners, it is the community partners who will help provide services.
"The long term goal is to continue to secure investments in the fund as long as the fund is needed. In addition to that, the long term goal is to launch a strategic advocacy agenda that will address these needs at the state level," said Wolverton.
YWCA Kalamazoo has also asked the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners to help fund this program.
The board is expected to vote in their meeting on April 6, 2021 to determine if they will contribute around $43,000 to the fund.