By Rachel Benoit
Just because we’re college students doesn’t mean we get a break from reality. We still get sick, injured, or maybe even depressed, and it might not be possible for us to travel back home to see the doctor. That’s why the Fitchburg State Student Health Services is here. But what students may not know is that in close proximity to the university is another resource specifically regarding sexual health, called The Fitchburg Health Center, located at 391 Main Street, and operated under Planned Parenthood. Student Health Services can test for sexually transmitted diseases, but Planned Parenthood offers that and more with STD diagnosis, prevention, treatment, vaccines, and counseling for teenagers and adults.
The Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts is focused on care and education, striving for a future where “sexual health is a personal and public health priority,” according to plannedparenthood.org. For 95 years, the organization has been the nation’s leading provider of high-quality, affordable health care and sexual education. They have offices all over the country and accept people without discrimination or requirements.
After going there myself, I felt the environment was truly a judgment-free zone. Even though the Student Health Services are available to us now, after graduation we are no longer eligible for those services. But Planned Parenthood will always have a door open to anyone who needs it.
Even if you have a reliable primary care physician, there may be times when you have an urgent need to see a professional sooner than when the doctor is available. I know from personal experience that sometimes it can be hard to schedule an appointment with doctor’s offices in a timely manner. Things can become tricky if you have to switch physicians or even worse, change insurance plans like I did last year. It can be a time-consuming and complicated process, and the change left me without a doctor for three months.
At the Planned Parenthood in Fitchburg, walk-ins are accepted or appointments can be made for that day. Unlike physicians, Planned Parenthood offers an additional benefit every time you visit as part of their prevention program: free contraceptives. Even if you are not a paying client, you can walk in and ask for condoms without paying a cent.
Maybe you have still decided against going to Planned Parenthood and would rather go to Student Health Services or your personal physician. Well, you can still access Planned Parenthood without ever stepping foot into one of their buildings. If you have a question, need advice, or just want to talk, then you can call the confidential Sexual Health Counseling and Referral Hotline at (617) 616-1616. Since 1974, this hotline has been operated by a trained health center staff and volunteers to discuss a wide range of issues including birth control, pregnancy options, sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and other aspects of reproductive health.
Planned Parenthood is there whether you are a student or not. One in five American women has chosen Planned Parenthood for health care at least once in her life, according to the organization, and 5 million people go to the organization each year. So if your physician is ever too busy or Student Health Services can’t give you the services you need, then consider going right down the street to our local Planned Parenthood for any matters of sexual health and prevention. They are there to help.