New program offers free birth control to Hoosiers
The infant mortality rate in Indiana is among the highest in the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 6.5 infant deaths for every 1,000 live births in Indiana in 2019. That’s compared to 4.9 in Kentucky and 5.7 in Illinois.
As part of an effort to improve health outcomes for both babies and mothers, the Pregnancy at a Time that is Happy and Healthy for You, or Path4You, program is providing free, same-day birth control to anyone in Indiana.
“When you look at those rates based on, you know, socioeconomic, education or racial degradations, you'll see even worse outcomes when you start looking at various groups,” said Dr. Tracey Wilkinson, assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and one of Path4You’s leaders.
Indiana officials have historically said the state’s maternal mortality rate is the third highest in the country. But Indiana’s true rank is unknown, because each state has different methods of counting maternal deaths.
Wilkinson said many efforts have been made to address the high number of infant and maternal deaths in Indiana, but none of them consider the need for better access to birth control.
“And so that's where our program kind of is filling a niche that's never been a part of this effort in the state so far, in terms of like a wide-spanning program that could be accessed by everybody in terms of birth control,” Wilkinson said.
Unintended pregnancies can result in preterm birth, low birth weight and infant death. In addition to free birth control, the program also provides reproductive health counseling.
The program is open to anyone in the state and covers all types and brands of birth control.
Interested participants will take an online survey about their birth control needs and then schedule an appointment to speak with a provider either in person or online. Providers will prescribe the chosen birth control with a voucher that can be used at the pharmacy. The program has also partnered with a mail-order pharmacy that can deliver the birth control to a patient’s home within 48 hours.
Contraceptive methods that require a procedure, like an IUD, will require an in-person appointment. Participating clinics are currently located in Indianapolis and Fort Wayne.
Under the Affordable Care Act, most commercial health plans must cover birth control methods approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at no cost. But not every brand is covered. Plans are only required to cover at least one product from each category on a list of 18 FDA-approved contraception methods.
Wilkinson said a big focus of Path4You is patient-centered care.
“We're here to help you find your path and help you get on your path and plan pregnancies that are happy and healthy for you,” Wilkinson said. “And no two women are the same, no two women have the same path. And so we are here to help you, but are letting you lead the way.”
Path4You is funded by a grant from the IU Health Foundation.
To participate in the program visit Path4You.org.