Howard Community College expands reproductive health services on campus

The Wellness Center at Howard Community College is getting a shot in the arm — a $1 million grant from Howard County, Maryland, to expand health care on campus.

Over the next three years, it will fund a pilot program to expand the number of clinics a month and services provided by the Howard County Health Department on campus.

Expanded services will include telemedicine, a full complement of contraception, including IUDs, opportunities for well-woman visits, sexually transmitted infection treatment options, PrEP and HIV prevention, and a dedicated exam room.

“Additionally, we have committed to hiring a full time registered nurse, a full time social worker a part time counselor to provide navigation of services and options and counseling for our students seeking a range of health care services that may not be offered at the Wellness Center or the health department,” Howard County Executive Calvin Ball said at the grant’s announcement on Thursday.

The pilot expansion will be implemented in three phases. A first big improvement will be the health department hosting clinics on campus twice versus only one time a month.

“Currently, the health department provides the following services at the Wellness Center: pregnancy testing and counseling, select contraception, sexually transmitted infection, testing and screening and vaccinations against HPV flu and COVID,” said Dr. Kelly Russo, medical director of the Howard County Health Department.

Later this fall, telemedicine visits will be added.

“This will provide an opportunity for students to meet virtually with a physician or nurse practitioner about STI results and treatment, HIV pre exposure prophylaxis also known as prep and initiating or changing birth control methods,” Russo said.

Then in January and early spring, HCC will become a federal title 10 satellite clinic under the umbrella of the county’s health department. With the new designation, the clinic will be staffed with a health department clinician who will provide well-woman visits, including gynecologic and breast exams, and access to the full spectrum of contraception, including long-acting reversible contraception.

Tara Rupp, associate director of Student Wellness at Howard Community College, said having expanded availability on campus will be lifting a huge weight from students.

“It’s going to be a huge relief for students who lack transportation, lack health insurance and don’t have enough money,” Rupp said. “Having these services, added times, having the nurses here, having the counselor here – we really are going to truly be able to meet students where they’re at.

“We’re going to be able to break down barriers and allow students to not only focus on their academics, but truly they’re going to be able to focus on personal growth and development and their well-being.”

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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