by Heather Hamacek Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – 2:56pm

Martha’s Vineyard Family Planning has a small staff consisting of one
nurse practitioner, one site manager and two counselors. The office is
tucked away along State Road in Vineyard Haven and only open three
days a week. And yet the organization helps over 1,000 people a year,
doesn’t have a waiting list for appointments, and offers services unavailable
elsewhere on the Island.
“We are able to see patients the same week they call,” said Brenda
Grandizio, site manager. “We are dedicated to making sure people are
getting services as soon as possible.”
The services offered are varied. Recently, the organization received a
colposcopy machine, which helps in the early detection of cervical cancer.
Since June 2015, the machine has been used for 26 patients after
abnormal pap smears. Not all the tests came back positive but without the
colposcopy machine the women would have had to travel off-Island for
more testing. And in some cases the tests did come back positive,
potentially saving a life through early detection.
Last year a young British woman working seasonally on the Vineyard was
persuaded by a friend to visit Family Planning for a health exam, and the
colposcopy machine revealed abnormal cells. The young woman, identified
as Tess, was quoted in the annual 2015 report: “In the UK, women aren’t
offered a pap exam until age 25. Because I was only 23 and had no
symptoms, I had no idea that there was a problem. If it weren’t for your
clinic staff I may have learned about this too late.”
The clinic is open just three days a week but serves over a thousand
people. — Mark Lovewell
Family Planning is also the only provider and remover of sub-dermal
implants for birth control, which it offers along with IUDs and birth control
pills. The confidential clinic provides sexually transmitted infection

screenings and regular gynecological health exams regardless of ability to
pay or insurance. Adapting to community needs, the clinic has started
evening hours too, and 30 per cent of its business in the last two months
has been done after the traditional work day ends.
The isolation of the Vineyard is a constant problem for health care. It can
take months or even years to secure a primary care provider on the Island.
Other services, such as abortions, have no on-Island options. While Family
Planning will never offer abortions (it is federally funded through Title X), it
does offer balanced counseling for women who find themselves with an
unplanned pregnancy. In these sessions they outline the options, provide
as much information as possible and then refer the patient to the
corresponding provider for their decision.
Family Planning also serves men and their reproductive health. On any
given clinic day, the counselors will see about 18 to 20 people spanning
generations and genders.
“In one day we saw patients from 11 to 71,” said Ms. Grandizio. “We are
usually fully booked with a low no show rate.”
In efforts to further connect with the community and spread the word about
their services, the clinic plans to work more with the schools and jails to
increase health education and share available resources.
Martha’s Vineyard Family Planning falls under the parent organization
Health Imperatives, which although headquartered off-Island offers
additional services on the Vineyard, including Healthy Families, a program
that helps new parents learn how to take care of their children. Parenting
issues for young people range from learning to change diapers to issues of
child abuse and neglect. These free services are done in the home, which
helps the counselors give practical instruction and advice.
“One client was terrified to give her baby the first bath,” said Elizabeth
Torrant, who oversees the program.
Ideally the organization likes to begin working with young parents during
pregnancy, and continue visiting until the child is three years old. The
young people helped by Healthy Families cross socioeconomic status, race
and gender, said Ms. Torrant.
“They all need support because none have been parents before,” she said.
In addition to parenting advice, the counselors focus on showing young
parents that parenthood does not mean they have to give up their dreams.
“Whether it’s graduating high school or going to college, just because they
have a kid doesn’t mean they need to give up on their aspirations,” said
Ms. Torrant.

For Family Planning and Healthy Families, the key component is building a
trusting relationship with the Island community. “It’s getting out into the
community for me,” said Ms. Grandizio. “We end up becoming patients’
confidants. It feels comfortable here, it’s safe here, and that keeps people
coming back.”
To make an appointment at Family Planning call 508-693-1208. For more
information about Healthy Family programs visit healthimperatives.org.