Occidental students may qualify for free Family PACT healthcare services, including birth control

Planned Parenthood’s Highland Park Health Center in Los Angeles, CA. Oct. 7, 2021. Jasmine Reyes/TheOccidental

Family Planning, Access, Care and Treatment (PACT), a state healthcare program, provides free family planning services to people who fall under its eligibility requirements, which may include many Occidental students. Provided by the California Department of Health Care Services, the program emphasizes patient confidentiality, while also aiming to ensure that people of any age, gender and income level can receive the reproductive health care they need.

Outlined on the Family PACT website, candidates are eligible if they have a California address, can become pregnant or cause a pregnancy, are at or below a certain income level or if they do not have other healthcare. People whose income is higher than the threshold and people who have insurance can still qualify if they need their services to remain confidential from others — such as a partner or parents — or if their insurance does not cover family planning services. A full list of qualifiers is available here.

“The one that we see the most often for FPACT [Family PACT] is folks who have concerns around confidentiality. So, this could be somebody who has insurance, but maybe it is their parent’s insurance or their partner’s insurance, and they are really concerned with a statement being sent to the house, or something that is disclosing the services they are receiving with us. So, they can request confidentiality and enroll in FPACT that way,” Ashley*, Director of Patient Programs at Planned Parenthood Highland Park, said.

Family PACT is available regardless of age, parental consent and gender. Rhea Karandikar (junior), co-vice president of the Occidental College Planned Parenthood Club, said this is an important distinction.

“It’s not just for women. I think that’s a big misconception people have — that reproductive health is a woman’s only issue. Reproductive health benefits everybody. And if you look at Family PACT, the specifications of it say it’s for anybody who is able to get pregnant, or can get someone else pregnant,” Karandikar said.

Patients can sign up for Family PACT by making an appointment with a provider and can search for nearby providers through familypact.com. One of the providers closest to Occidental College is Planned Parenthood Highland Park, which is less than two miles away on Figueroa Street. Providers will issue patients a Health Access Programs (HAP) Card, which clients use to show they have Family PACT.

There are multiple ways to access Planned Parenthood Highland Park, according to Sarah*, director of medical services at Planned Parenthood Highland Park. Patients can make appointments by phone or online. Walk-in appointments are also an option, but according to Sarah, there is no guarantee that walk-in patients will be seen by a provider immediately.

Family PACT covers HIV testing, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and treatment, cervical cancer screening and multiple birth control methods, including emergency contraception. These services are available through eligible providers, including Planned Parenthood Highland Park.

STI testing is also free for all Occidental students through Emmons Wellness Center, according to Krista Place, student benefits and insurance specialist at Emmons.

“Emmons covers the cost of STI screening as long as it is performed at Emmons — the labs have to be sent over using our account number, from our location,” Place said.

There are still some services that Family PACT does not cover, including services for pregnancy, emergency room visits and inpatient services.

According to Ashley, despite the personal, sensitive nature of some of the circumstances that might bring someone to Planned Parenthood, the organization seeks to create a safe and comfortable environment.

“A protestor [outside] definitely happens sometimes, just due to the nature of our organization, but it’s not the norm,” Ashley said. “We want to make sure folks feel as comfortable as possible coming to us, so if there is a protester outside, patients can call us ahead of time, and we can escort them in. Or we can do a separate entrance if they’re concerned about that.”

Occidental’s Planned Parenthood Club is also a resource available to students, according to Andrea Marquez (senior), Planned Parenthood Club president.

“Our E-board members are pretty well-versed with Family PACT. So, if there are any students who are interested in it, or would like to learn a little bit more from folks who have applied and have received it, they can more than 100 percent contact us,” Marquez said.

Marquez said she believes that the services covered by Family PACT are important and benefit those involved.

“Reproductive health is physical health. And mental health. And emotional health. It’s all connected. If one of those is lacking, it affects everything else,” Marquez said.

*Planned Parenthood representatives are referred to using only their first names to protect their confidentiality.