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Planned Parenthood looks to escape the angst 

By the end of July, patients under the care of Planned Parenthood Westside on Colorado Avenue will be making appointments at a different address.

The nonprofit health center will offer the same services at 3480 Centennial Blvd. as it has at 1330 W. Colorado Ave., but will be able to more efficiently handle a greater number of patients, mostly women seeking reproductive care.

"At [the west side] location last year there were about 30,000 client visits," says Monica McCafferty, spokesperson for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. "This year we've already seen about 20,000 visits."

Having previously housed medical offices, the new space offers large reception and waiting areas as well as multiple exam and consultation rooms. It all amounts to about 8,500 square feet for the health center and 3,000 square feet for education services — a good step up from what employee Jim Amidon says was about 3,000 square feet total on Colorado Avenue.

"At the former location," adds McCafferty, "there wasn't even enough room in the waiting area for people to come in."

And if the environment could be uncomfortable inside, it could be more so outside. The west side location has provided abortion services for women, and protesters and demonstrators regularly have shown up on the sidewalk in front of the building. Planned Parenthood did provide security for patients, but McCafferty says the protesters still caused problems.

"They were distracting to clients who were just coming to us for basic health care," she says. "I think that no matter how you feel about abortion, we should all agree that no one should be harassed or intimidated when they're seeking health care."

Fr. Bill Carmody, from the Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs, has conducted organized religious services outside the old location since 1993. Reached by phone Tuesday, Carmody said he was unaware of Planned Parenthood's move, but that he has no plans to cease his form of protest.

"I'll do what I did before," he says. "I will call the police and find out what is legal."

The new location, which sits near other medical offices, is set back from the road, on private property. So should protesters visit, according to McCafferty, they'll have to remain at least 200 yards from the building.

"For this area to remain free of protest will be beneficial to not only our business neighbors but the community as a whole," says McCafferty. "What we're doing is providing health care."

She says more than 93 percent of what this office does is provide preventative care for women: birth control, annual exams, STD tests and treatment. In 2009 alone, the 24 Planned Parenthood locations in Colorado issued more than 350,000 prescriptions for birth control and administered more than 50,000 STD tests. But Planned Parenthood also provides men's health care services.

"We're seeing more and more men come to our health centers for basic reproductive health care, as well as basic health care such as cholesterol screening, blood pressure checks and so forth," says McCafferty.

Though unsure of a specific opening date, McCafferty says Planned Parenthood staffers are looking forward to providing a new patient experience: "This is the setting you would see in any type of doctor's office."

lea@csindy.com

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