.In its 50th Year, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte Continues to Bring Vital Services

Since 1971, Planned Parenthood has provided comprehensive, affordable healthcare to Santa Cruz County.

The organization offers reproductive healthcare, mental health services, primary care, men’s and women’s specific health care, pregnancy testing and services, vaccines, contraceptives, LGBTQ services and more. It is the nation’s largest provider of sex education, and its services are available to anyone, regardless of insurance status.

“The work we do is vital,” says Dianna Zamora-Marroquin, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Mar Monte (PPMM), a network of 35 centers including Santa Cruz County. “It’s something that folks need. We are a nonprofit that provides affordable, high-quality care to all. We are an important, unique and essential service.”

The Planned Parenthood centers in Santa Cruz and Watsonville offer “a true, comprehensive network of nonjudgmental healthcare,” Zamora-Marroquin says, serving more than 12,000 patients annually. This includes enhanced behavioral care, family medical care, gender-affirming care, vasectomies and more.

“We focus on care for the whole person and family,” she says. “Everyone can go to a clinic regardless of who they are, or what they need.”

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Santa Cruz’s Westside health center helped pioneer the Gender Affirming Care program 20 years ago, which has expanded to all of PPMM’s centers. This includes everything from hormone care to mental health services for people dealing with various gender-related issues.

“You can’t just walk into an office and immediately be able to transition … which is why we’re making sure we are building a ladder for our patients,” Zamora-Marroquin says. “So that people don’t get stuck. We want to help bridge that gap.”

Throughout the pandemic, Planned Parenthood has continued to provide its services and advocacy, even as appointments moved online. They have been offering Covid-19 testing and resources for families and individuals, including mental health care for those dealing with isolation.

And the nonprofit is bracing for even more challenges, many that stem from a number of proposed and implemented restrictions on women’s reproductive rights nationwide. According to a report released in July by the Guttmacher Institute, more abortion restrictions have been enacted in the U.S. in 2021 than in any other year since Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that the Constitution protects a pregnant woman’s liberty to choose whether or not to have an abortion. 

The Roe v. Wade decision was handed down in 1973. This year, a total of 26 states enacted 90 restrictions, and many are poised to ban abortions.

“We’ve seen these systematic attacks in an incredibly high volume,” Zamora-Marroquin says. “Planned Parenthood as a whole has been taking action through all legal means possible to protect people’s rights.”

PPMM clinics are working with affiliates in order to support Planned Parenthood locations that are facing these sorts of challenges, and also building more robust facilities and opportunities in California so they can prepare to help people from out of state.

They are working closely with colleagues in Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbot signed a new measure into law last May that would ban abortions as early as six weeks—when many women haven’t even realized they are pregnant.

“We are fighting a massive, uphill battle with no guarantee that the law of the land will be upheld,” Zamora-Marroquin says. “We are so thankful to all those who support us and allow us to continue our important work.”

As Planned Parenthood marks 50 years in Santa Cruz County, it is looking for even more support from the community through the annual Santa Cruz Gives campaign, which kicked off in mid-November. The holiday fundraising program, which runs through the end of the year, aims to create a local network of donors and increase giving via crowdsourcing.

This year the campaign doubled in size, now highlighting 80 local nonprofits instead of the usual 40. Groups and individuals can visit SantaCruzGives.org, where each nonprofit has a profile page detailing their story and how they will use the donations. 

With funds raised through the campaign, Planned Parenthood hopes to continue its essential work in Santa Cruz County, and keep expanding its services further. 

Zamora-Marroquin praises local Planned Parenthood staff who she calls “extremely dedicated” to their community. 

“We’ve noticed, and are so proud of how our staff is so deeply embedded in Santa Cruz County,” she says. “They live here, they are working for their neighbors … they are very much giving back to this community.”

More Ways to Help

In addition to Planned Parenthood, Santa Cruz Gives is also highlighting a number of other health and wellness nonprofits in Santa Cruz County. 

This includes Dientes Community Dental Care, which has been part of the campaign since its inception in 2015. For nearly 30 years, Dientes has worked to ensure that everyone has access to quality oral health care, regardless of cost, insurance, income, language and transportation. They are the largest dental care provider in the county, offering care and treatment for over 10,000 people living in poverty. 

Proceeds from this year’s campaign will help Dientes continue its Give Kids a Smile Day, which is part of the organization’s Dientes Cares for Kids program. Give Kids a Smile Day provides free dental care to uninsured children in Santa Cruz County.

“Toothaches are one of the most common reasons low-income kids miss school,” says Sheree Storm, chief development officer for Dientes. “Our goal is to make prevention more common than treatment so that kids can focus on school instead of a toothache.”

Supporting Dientes will also help the nonprofit open its new 11-chair clinic currently under construction in Live Oak. Opening in fall 2022, the clinic is part of a health and housing campus built in partnership with Santa Cruz Community health and MidPen Housing. 

“Santa Cruz Gives showcases all the great work that is happening amongst nonprofits to create a better Santa Cruz County, and we couldn’t be more proud to be a part of that story,” Storm says. “Participating in this amazing effort has been great to help expose us to new donors who might not otherwise know about Dientes.”

Heidi Boynton, executive director of Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services, echoed that sentiment. 

“People will have their own ideas about what our organization does,” Boynton says. “So any opportunity to tell our story, to let people know what we really do, is of such great value. That carries us throughout the year.”

Jacob’s Heart aims to improve the quality of life for children with cancer by supporting them, their family members and friends through all of the challenges they face. They provide emotional, practical, financial and peer support to thousands of local families. 

Through Santa Cruz Gives, Jacob’s Heart will increase its crisis counseling by hiring a team of bicultural psychotherapists and specialists with expertise in grief and trauma. This will help families during treatment, those experiencing anticipatory grief and those dealing with loss. 

In addition, the funds will expand support for those dealing with pandemic-related struggles.

“Not only are people dealing with cancer, but also battling the isolation from the pandemic,” Boynton says. “We’ve seen that in all of our families. There was already this unimaginable journey they were on. And now there’s also this virus layered on top. We really want to focus on bringing in more emotional and peer support.”

Boynton thanked the community for their continued support of Jacob’s Heart. 

“We currently have 106 children we are caring for, thanks to this community’s generosity,” she says. “Fundraising is critical to do the work we do. We want to remind people that we are here to support them—until there is a cure, we will be here.”

Additional health and wellness organizations selected for this year’s Santa Cruz Gives campaign include: 

Alzheimer’s Association 

More than 5,300 people in Santa Cruz County live with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and another 8,000 loved ones and caregivers are impacted. The Alzheimer’s Association in Santa Cruz connects people with a community of support every step of the way. All services are free and offered in English and Spanish by phone, virtually, and in-person, including care consultations, support groups, education and tips on healthy living for the brain and body. 

Health Projects Center 

Health Projects Center supports people as they age to live safely at home by delivering high-quality services and programs in the Monterey Bay region. This includes managing health care and supportive services, supporting family caregivers, transitioning low-income people out of institutional living and strengthening the health care workforce. They are also working to educate older adults about Covid‐19 and facilitate access to vaccinations.

Mental Health Client Action Network

The Mental Health Client Action Network is a peer-run organization dedicated to providing mutual support and networking, creating programs, advocating for the right to choose our one’s path in life, educating the public from their perspective, working to eradicate treatment disparities and confronting discrimination. Fundraising will help provide showers four days a week for up to 50 people a day at the group’s drop-in center, including toiletries, towels, toothbrushes and other hygiene supplies.

Santa Cruz Gives is presented by Good Times in partnership with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County and with support from the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County, The Applewood Fund, the Bud & Rebecca Colligan Fund, The Joe Collins Fund, Driscoll’s, Inc., Santa Cruz County Bank, Wynn Capital Management, Oswald Restaurant, the Pajaronian and the Press Banner. For a list of all nonprofits and to donate, visit santacruzgives.org.

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