Catholic Charities in Minnesota archdiocese to end two longtime services

by Jessica Trygstad

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) — In the coming months, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis will close its Seton Prenatal Clinic and cease its adoption program.

Citing declining numbers, and changes in health care regulations and industry trends, Tim Marx, the agency’s president and CEO, said the clinic, which provides health care to low-income or uninsured women, will close in August and is working on a transition plan.

“We understand, as the region’s largest comprehensive social service agency that it is our job — and the community and other partners rely on us — to be of service to those most in need,” Marx said. “And we look at everything we do in the context of those most in need.

“We always have to deal with scarce resources, and when we have to make choices, we look at where are other options available, where are we most needed, and where can we be credible and provide the level of service that makes sense given all the changes that are occurring. We will always continue to do that.”

Adding that the closures aren’t a result of performance or quality issues, Marx said, “The trends overcome what very good people have been doing for a very long time.”

In 2015, Seton Clinic served 206 women, a decline from previous years. The clinic has three full-time employees; its midwifery services are staffed by the St. Paul-based HealthEast Care System, a longtime partner that also directs the clinic’s medical services. Current employees are encouraged to seek other positions at Catholic Charities.

Marx noted that HealthEast and other partners — many within close proximity to Seton Prenatal Clinic — will continue to provide care and resources to its clientele, and other health care and social service agencies also can provide pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and counseling.

“That’s really hard to let go of,” Marx said. “That’s very much an emotional decision for us because it’s so much a part of that legacy of being an agency that respects human life and respects human dignity, and that prenatal program has been near and dear to our hearts.”

Aside from medical services, Seton Prenatal Clinic, which dates back to 1917, provides social services, such as assistance with applying for government programs, food support and cash assistance, and help accessing community resources.

Marx noted that since the federal Affordable Care Act was signed into law in 2010, more of the women the clinic serves have access to insurance, resulting in fewer clients because they’re able to receive services elsewhere. Meanwhile, industry wide, health care is getting more complicated and regulated, and moving toward a model of integrating a holistic approach, which Catholic Charities doesn’t have the resources to provide.

Through its other programs, Catholic Charities will continue to provide prenatal and parenting services. Clients of Seton Prenatal Clinic have access to free on-site education about health care, safety and nutrition, as well as to baby supplies and postpartum care items. The clinic serves women, including some with high-risk pregnancies, and teens who may be uninsured and/or living in poverty during pregnancy, and the birth and early infancy of their children.

Its adoption services, which Marx said had been around since the 1940s, will regrettably end in December and, like the clinic, are going through a transition period. Marx said Catholic Charities will retain records of past adoptions.

Once coordinating more than 200 adoptions a year, the agency facilitated only seven in 2015. Marx attributes the decline to society’s changing mores and said the ability of same-sex couples to adopt children plays no role in the program ending. Catholic Charities will work with individual couples on their own transition plans before focusing on future referrals.

Despite the closures, Marx maintains that Catholic Charities is a growing agency.

“Because as we look at trends and think it makes sense to pare back in some areas, we also look at areas where we are needed more . . . particularly abused and neglected children at St. Joseph’s Home for Children and in similar programs, and secondly in older adult services,” he said. “As the ‘silver tsunami’ has really come upon us, there are more and more older adults in homeless shelters and otherwise at risk of not having or maintaining their housing stability. And we’re ramping up our efforts to maintain that.”

Copyright ©2016 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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