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INTERVIEW: Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic President & CEO Vincent Russell On Title X Funding, The East End Gala's 30th Anniversary, And More

Nicole Barylski

Johnson's Hills & Valleys. (Courtesy Photo)

2018 marks two very significant milestones for Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic (PPHP), both of which will be celebrated on Saturday, June 2 during the organization's annual East End Benefit.

We caught up with Vincent Russell, President & CEO, PPHP, about the fundraiser, funding, the future, and more.

Could you please tell me a bit about this year's benefit?

VR: This year's East End Gala is our 30th and Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic is celebrating its 85th anniversary.

What can people expect at the benefit?

VR: This year we're changing things up. We're doing it at the LTV Studios in Wainscott, from 5 to 8 p.m., and we have Niki Johnson coming in to speak and presenting her Hills & Valleys for the first time that it is being shown in New York.

Why did PPHP feel Niki's work was a fit for benefit?

VR: Niki is definitely an activist and organizer around reproductive and women's rights and this piece that she's bringing in certainly shows the challenges that we're having from a national landscape on the attacks on sexual and reproductive health. Niki's piece shows that.

Now's a critical time for Planned Parenthood with President Trump attempting to defund Title X funding. If he succeeds, what would that mean for the organization?

VR: What that would mean is in terms of the Title X funding that's under attack right now, across the country Planned Parenthood health centers make up about 13 percent of the entirety of Title X health centers. But, we serve about 41 percent of the patients who get care through Title X. In New York, just to show the scope of what that means in the area, 34 percent of Title X sites are Planned Parenthood and in New York alone, we serve about 52 percent of those patients across all the Planned Parenthoods in New York State. Then, to narrow it down in Suffolk Country, more than 9,700 PPHP patients were Title X eligible in 2017.

What will funding raised at the benefit will go towards?

VR: The funding from this benefit will help support our operational activities; it will help in terms of our capital needs and our education programs. One example is we opened up a brand new health center in Riverhead that we essentially redesigned the entire inside of the space and opened that up last summer. Revenues from this event will support our ability to continue to invest in our facilities, our education and training programs, as well as just our continued operations and to be able to serve the patients of Suffolk County.

Could you talk about the impact the organization has had on the nation and East End?

VR: In terms of nationally, unintended pregnancy is at a 30 year low and much of that can be attributed to the services that Planned Parenthood provides. We provide birth control, emergency contraception, sexual transmitted inflection testing and treatment, we do HIV testing and counseling, as well as general women's gynecological care, we do cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and counseling, we also do prenatal care within Hudson Peconic, HPV vaccinations, as well as abortion services. With those services we provide, we're very critical in the communities that we serve in making sure that women have the choice and the education to make the appropriate choices in their family planning needs.

Are there any misconceptions about PPHP that you would like to dispel?

VR: I'd say the biggest misconception about Planned Parenthood is kind of twofold. One is that many people believe that Planned Parenthood is just an abortion provider and I want people to know that we are much, much more than just an abortion provider. As a matter of fact, that is a very small segment of the services we provide. And, that many of the services that we provide are preventative in nature, and are critical to the communities that we serve with regards to their family planning needs, STI testing, and education, as well as the cancer screenings that we do provide.

What is the age range that Planned Parenthood serves?

VR: We serve from the age range of adolescence all the way up through women in their 50s and early 60s. I can tell you that in some of our health centers, we have a family that is three generational - it's the grandmother, the mother, and the daughter come in on an annual basis for services. Our predominant patient population is patients that range in age 18 to 30-years-old.

What are your hopes for the future of the organization?

VR: My hopes for the future of the organization is that we continue to be able to provide the services that we currently do, continue to expand services to those communities in need, and be able to have a landscape where sexual reproductive health is available to everyone, and it is no longer under attack.

At the Riverhead facility, have you launched or do you have plans to launch any new services?

VR: We're looking to start a transgender program, both in Suffolk County as well as in Westchester County. We just brought on a new associate medical director to lead the ramp up of those services.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

VR: Anyone that would like to support the event, tickets are still available.

The benefit kicks off at 5 p.m. Tickets start at $250 ($150 for young adults).

LTV Studio is located at 75 Industrial Road in Wainscott. For more information, visit www.weareplannedparenthood.org.

Nicole is the Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com where she focuses on lifestyle, nightlife, and mixology. She grew up in the Hamptons and currently resides in Water Mill. www.hamptons.com NicoleBarylski NicoleBarylski

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