A nonprofit health organization will provide training to Maryland primary care providers in reproductive health, including contraceptives, Gov. Wes Moore announced on Tuesday.

The training from Upstream USA will begin with a nonprofit network of health clinics that serves low-income patients in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Moore said that his administration’s focus on protecting access to reproductive health care goes beyond efforts to protect abortion care. He previously released money for abortion training for providers, stockpiled drugs for medication abortions and supported an amendment to the state constitution protecting reproductive choice.

“The work to protect reproductive freedom and bodily autonomy does not stop at abortion, and the work to expand access to health care does not stop at abortion, either,” Moore, a Democrat, said during a State House news conference. “Contraception is health care. Educating our girls and our women about their reproductive options is health care.”

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One challenge, Moore and other officials said, is that hundreds of thousands of Marylanders lack access to specialists such as obstetricians and gynecologists who typically provide information about, and access to, contraceptives such as birth control pills, birth control shots and intrauterine devices.

Most contraceptives are covered by insurance plans at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient under the Affordable Care Act. But about 8.4% of Americans, including about 6% of Marylanders, lack health insurance.

Dr. Laura Herrera Scott, the state health secretary, said it’s important to make contraceptive care as easy as possible to help Marylanders prevent unplanned pregnancies.

“While dedicated family planning clinics and OB-GYNs will always remain experts, there is a clear and necessary role for primary care providers in the delivery of contraceptive care,” she said.

Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Laura Hererra Scott speaks at a State House press conference announcing a partnership with Upstream USA, a nonprofit organization that will train primary care providers in Maryland in reproductive healthcare. The press conference was held on Monday, Nov. 28, 2023.
Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Laura Hererra Scott speaks at a State House press conference announcing a partnership with Upstream USA, a nonprofit organization that will train primary care providers in Maryland in reproductive healthcare. (Pamela Wood)

The goal of the partnership is to train primary care providers in contraceptives to help fill in that gap.

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Upstream USA, a Boston-based nonprofit, will train doctors, nurses and other providers in basic reproductive care and contraceptives.

Mark Edwards, CEO and co-founder of Upstream USA, said his organization’s training will help patients “get the contraceptive care they want, when they want it, where it is convenient for them” — without needing to make a follow-up appointment at a different clinic on another day.

The training will start with CCI Health Services in the Washington suburbs and expand to others over the course of a four-year partnership.

CCI is a federally qualified health center, a designation for clinics and medical offices that serve patients who are uninsured or underinsured, typically charging patients on a sliding scale based on their ability to pay.

The state didn’t indicate when the training will expand to other clinics and providers, how many providers ultimately will be trained or whether there are plans to bring Upstream’s resources to the Baltimore area.

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Upstream will provide the training at no cost to the state or the providers, officials said, with the state Department of Health providing data to help the organization target its programs in areas with high rates of unplanned pregnancies.

President Joe Biden announced a similar partnership with Upstream USA over the summer, and the organization already is working with several states.

pamela.wood@thebaltimorebanner.com

Pamela Wood covers Maryland politics and government. She previously reported for The Baltimore Sun, The Capital and other Maryland newspapers. A graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park, she lives in northern Anne Arundel County. 

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