Counseling and Wellness Center aims to increase awareness of sexual health services on offer

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The Counseling and Wellness Center (CWC) is a New College student’s go-to place for weekly therapy, antibiotics and free condoms. But when it comes to Plan B, abuse therapy and women’s health exams, students may turn to other sources even though they are offered at the CWC.

The CWC provides nearly all of its services free of charge to New College students. These free services cover everything from counseling and routine annual exams to sick visits and prescriptions. However, there are a few key services that are not complimentary to students, and these are some of the most crucial. They’re also some of the most overlooked.

On any college campus, awareness and practice of safe sex is a continuing discussion, and with good reason – a 1994 survey showed that 56 percent of American men and 30 percent of American women have had more than five sexual partners in their lifetime. But if the cost of an annual women’s health exam is too high for a student to pay, how will they get a prescription for birth control? Some students choose to pay the cost because of convenience, but many turn to other resources. The most common alternative to the CWC is Planned Parenthood; there are two clinics within six miles of New College. Although the price for women’s pelvic exams is not any lower at Planned Parenthood than it is at the CWC – it’s actually about $5 more expensive to get an exam at Planned Parenthood and some won’t provide that service if one is under age 21 –students feel that their needs will be better addressed there than at the CWC.

Some students prefer Planned Parenthood because they feel that the doctors there are more experienced in sexual health work. Others would choose Planned Parenthood over the CWC because Planned Parenthood affords them greater privacy.

“One thing that would make me turn to Planned Parenthood for sexual health would be the fact that their waiting room wouldn’t be full of students,” second-year Elizabeth Sockol said. “It’s always a little bit uncomfortable telling the person at the desk [at the CWC] what you’re there for when your neighbor is sitting right behind you.”

The CWC is attempting to make themselves more accessible to students for issues of sexual health, in large part as a result of the Title IX Independent Study Project (ISP) conducted over this past ISP period. One of the Title IX ISP’s goals was to “create a safe, sex-positive community free from all forms of gender abuse,” and so far they have been successful. The group has outlined a plan of action to take place over the next year, and one of their most immediate goals is also one of the most controversial issues on Capitol Hill right now.

In a move that foreshadowed President Obama’s proposal for nearly universal coverage for the costs of birth control, the Title IX ISP group has begun work to reduce the price of Plan B from the CWC from $20 to nothing. Many students, however, are not aware that Plan B is even available at the CWC.

“I didn’t know that Plan B was available [at the CWC],” Sockol said. “But that’s actually pretty awesome.”

It’s unique that Plan B is available at the CWC even though New College students don’t have to buy an insurance plan or pay hefty wellness fees, especially considering that the $20 cost of Plan B from the CWC is still much less than the cost of Plan B at other places, including Planned Parenthood. The price of the “morning after” pill normally ranges from $30 to $40, and those under 17 would need a prescription to be able to buy it. However, if students don’t know that Plan B can be purchased on campus, then there isn’t much of a point to making it available for free. Demand for Plan B on campus is low enough that the CWC doesn’t have to ask for funds to pre-order Plan B very frequently – the last time those funds were requested was in 2009 for $650.

Making Plan B free would make the CWC just that much more appealing to students. Second-year Annie Carter is already especially thankful for how easy and inexpensive it is to use the CWC, especially in comparison to her previous university.

“As a transfer student, I have felt the pain of medical bills from another university, so I feel privileged to have as many free services as we do…without the hidden fees,” Carter said. “But I didn’t know that Plan B was available at the CWC, and I didn’t know that it was available for a reduced price. It really should be advertised more.”

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