In an effort to lower the “unintended” pregnancy rate in Missouri, the Jefferson County Health Department has been selected as one of seven health centers to receive grant funding and be a part of the new Right Time Initiative.

The Health Department can now offer free contraceptives and family planning to anyone who is seeking the services, with costs covered by grant funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health.

The Health Department will be refunded $50 per patient visit, plus the cost of the birth control method selected.

Michelle Trupiano, executive director of the Missouri Family Health Council, which is a partner of the Missouri Foundation for Health, said the foundation estimated it will refund about $170,000 to the Health Department in the first year of the program, and Jefferson County will be part of the program for three years. The statewide initiative is a $20 million project, she said.

“We’re very excited to have Jefferson County Health Department as part of the initiative,” Trupiano said. “This is just one more service they can offer.”

The Right Time Initiative goal is to lower unplanned pregnancies in Missouri by 10 percent. According to the Missouri Foundation for Health website, 51 percent of pregnancies in Missouri are unintended.

The Jefferson County Health Department has offered birth control services over the years, using funds from Title 10, a federally funded program for local health centers.

However, sometimes there was a cost for some patients. Now, with the Right Time Initiative, there is no cost for anyone, including non-Jefferson County residents.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of folks who just don’t know what they have access to,” said Kate Wagner, a nurse practitioner with the Health Department. Wagner said the initiative will help younger people and people without any insurance.

“This is allowing us to have a conversation with young people, people of every age, but specifically young people,” she said. “It’s taking that layer off (money concerns) and allowing them to control their health care.”

One of the program’s major benefits is that women will be able to choose the birth control method they want without worrying about the cost, Wagner said.

“They don’t have to settle for a method. They can choose their desired method, and that’s empowering,” Wagner said.

The program includes the traditional birth control pill, the Depo-Provera shot, condoms, IUDs, the Nexplanon rod, the patch, the birth control ring, and other methods.

“Pretty much anything apart from getting your tubes tied or anything like that,” said Kylie Brueggemann, a public health nurse with the Health Department. “So, no financial barriers whatsoever.”

The program also will help women who wish to get pregnant achieve a healthy pregnancy with family planning services.

If someone has insurance, the insurance will still be billed. However, if there is any cost leftover, the Right Time Initiative will cover that cost.

Also, the grant offers a $50,000 allowance for an educator and outreach coordinator.

Brueggemann said the Health Department is working on the job description and hopes to hire someone soon.

“A big part of their job will be promotion, getting the word out,” she said.

Wagner said care providers also will have the opportunity to give healthy relationship advice.

“This program really makes sure the structure is there and adds another layer of resources,” she said.

Appointments are preferred, but the Health Department also will serve people who walk in at the department’s three offices in Hillsboro, Arnold and High Ridge. To make an appointment, call 636-797-3737.

The other health centers receiving grants include Fordland Clinic in Fordland and Kimberling City, Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Centers in St. Louis, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, Contraceptive Choice Center in St. Louis, Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services in Columbia and AIDS Project of the Ozarks in Springfield.

Brueggemann said 13 health agencies applied to be part of the program.