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Sexual health clinic opening in Penticton

Next week, Penticton will become the latest community in B.C. to host an Opt clinic, the 59th in the province.

Options for Sexual Health is holding a grand opening for their latest clinic at 4 p.m. on Sept. 13, with the clinic officially going into operation on the evening of Sept. 18.

Opt’s Executive Director, Jennifer Breakspear, said the new clinic is both a response to community need and the result of hard work by community members.

“It was actually community members that approached us a while back and expressed concern about people in the area that were finding it difficult to find physicians, difficult to find the various services we offer: sexually transmitted infection testing, pregnancy counselling, low-cost birth control,” said Breakspear. “We worked with them for a while, checking out feasibility and whether it would be a successful venture to open a clinic in Penticton. We had a great response from the people that ended up joining what became our working group.”

The Opt clinic will be filling a void left when Interior Health shut down their public health STI clinics at the beginning of 2012, leaving that aspect of health care to physicians and walk-in clinics in the community. Breakspear said the new clinic, however will be taking a wider view.

“Our mission is about a diversity of healthy sexual expression throughout our lives, for all of us in the province,” she said. “A whole gamut of sexual and reproductive health issues can be dealt with right there in the clinic, through the whole comprehensive team of volunteers, reception, nurses and physicians. “

Breakspear explains that Options for Sexual Health has been building clinics for half a century.

“We were known, for quite a long time, as Planned Parenthood,” Breakspear said. “In 2003 there was a move to rebrand and change the name, to demonstrate that we offer services beyond dealing with the stereotypical function of planned parenthood, which would be single teen pregnancies. Of course, that is a significant community that we eagerly serve, however, we serve everyone.”

The new clinic will be sharing space with the Penticton Health Centre at 740 Carmi Ave. Locating the clinic at the Health Centre provides a familiar location for visitors and follows a model the Opt clinics use at many of their locations.

“We often have volunteers on hand who have been trained to work with our clients about whatever issues they are bringing into the clinic that day and then, depending on what they are coming in for, they may see one of our nurses or one of our physicians,” said Breakspear, adding that all of their services are completely confidential and covered under the B.C. Care Card.

“If they are going to be purchasing contraception, we offer very low cost contraception right on site, so someone can have the prescription filled right there,” she continued. “If they are coming in with a concern about a possible sexually transmitted infection, we can arrange to have testing done and then the treatments and followup done at the clinic.”

The clinic starts operations on Sept. 18, opening Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Breakspear said the hours of operation were chosen in consultation with the local working group to support the clinic’s clientele.

“Young people are a big segment of the community that we serve. We have clinics open during hours that pretty much anyone can access,” said Breakspear. “People are out of school and people that are working will be able to get in during the evenings when they are off work. It’s meant to be an accessible a time period as possible.”

An open house will take place at the clinic on Sept. 13 from 3:30 to 4 p.m.

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