MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — It was a hot-button topic: the end of Planned Parenthood’s lease with Muskegon County. Now the question is what that means for Planned Parenthood clients in the area.
“That’s the million-dollar question. What’s our next step?” Jim Norton, the vice president of development for Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said.
After hours of public comment from hundreds of people Tuesday, county commissioners voted 6-2 to end Planned Parenthood’s lease agreement for rooms at the county health department building, citing concerns about the lack of space for county health services. Planned Parenthood now has 90 days to pack up and move out.
“There is absolutely no way we can find a space, renovate it and relocate in 90 days,” Norton said Thursday. “The one thing we know for sure is there is going to be a significant interruption in our services.”
How long a break in services will last has yet to be determined. Norton said it took another Planned Parenthood site in Michigan nearly a year to find a space, negotiate a sale and finish renovations.
“I should also point out it cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that,” he said.
That’s because the operation can’t move into just any vacant space. Offices have to include examination rooms and lab space, and be in an area that is safe and convenient.
“In a perfect world, of course we want to continue services in Muskegon,” Norton said. “Unfortunately, it’s not a perfect world. The right space will have to be available at the right rate.”
The Muskegon County Health Department says it will work with Planned Parenthood any way it can during the transition.
If Planned Parenthood can’t find a suitable site in Muskegon County, the health department will compile a list of alternative places where residents can receive the services.
Planned Parenthood will keep its clients posted on any developments. In the meantime, clients are urged to make appointments as soon as possible to get family planning and sexually transmitted disease testing taken care of before the closure.