Urge to merge!
A year and a half after four Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge board members resigned, citing "eroding" community support, "deteriorating" leadership, and "dysfunctional programs," things are looking up for the organization.
On Monday, May 14, Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge CEO David Nova (at left) announced that the organization, headquartered in Roanoke, will merge with the multi-state Planned Parenthood Health Services, which blankets all of South Carolina and West Virginia in addition to eastern and western North Carolina. The merger– effective June 30– will create the largest Planned Parenthood affiliate in the southeastern United States and will give Charlottesville's branch a name of its own: Planned Parenthood of Charlottesville.
"This is the first time we found a merger partner that definitively improved the mission of Planned Parenthood," says Roanoke-based Nova, who will remain with the company as vice president. He points out that Planned Parenthood Federation, the national organization, has long been encouraging smaller affiliates with budgets under $2 million to partner with affiliates with budgets over $6 million to maximize efficiency.
"There used to be 210 affiliates" nationwide, says Nova. "Now it's close to 110." Blue Ridge has a budget of just over $2 million, he adds, while Health Services has a budget of $6.5 million. Among the advantages of merging: having more money for departments including marketing; sharing administrative costs; and building a stronger web presence, which will allow clients to make appointments and conduct other business online.
Health Services CEO Walt Klausmeier says Blue Ridge was appealing thanks to its "innovative programs, tremendous facility, great staff, board and volunteers." The tremendous facility he refers to is the Dr. Herbert Jones Jr. Reproductive Health and Education Center on Hydraulic Road. Built in 2003 to exacting hospital standards to help withstand potential legislative restrictions on abortion clinics, the million-dollar facility is the only Planned Parenthood center in the state to offer complex surgeries including hysterectomies and sterilization.
Despite its cutting edge equipment and design, the resigning board members feared the center was underutilized. While acknowledging that may once have been the case, Nova says the charge is no longer true. "At the time we were between physicians," he explains. "We've since hired a female physician who has worked more than a year in our Charlottesville center, and a female nurse practiioner."
Former Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge board member Jack Marshall, who was among the resigning board members a year and a half ago, declined comment on any problems then and now, but says he believes the merger is a good thing. "I'm delighted with the direction it's now going," he says. "It seems to me everybody comes out ahead."
Other board members who resigned along with Marshall in December 2005 did not return the Hook's calls. Two Charlottesville-based current board members of Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge will make the switch in July and serve on the new board.
Elizabeth Muse, who for nearly a decade worked at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco and has served on the current board since 2006, says the current Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge board voted unanimously to approve the merger. "Planned Parenthood Health Services has a great record of mergers and a strong administrative component," she says. "Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge has fantastic education and clinical services structure. Those come together to enhance each other."