A critical island program has been reinvigorated.
Thanks to a cohort of volunteers who have stepped up, the Island Reproductive Health Initiative is working hard to achieve its goal of helping to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of sexually transmitted infections in the Orcas community.
The not-for-profit organization, which operates under the umbrella of the Orcas Island Community Foundation, was created in 2010 to help provide young people access to local, confidential reproductive health care and accurate sexuality education.
“IRHI has been helping our island youth to be proactive, responsible and safer around their health, sexuality and overall well-being through exceptional sexual health education and clinical care for over a decade,” said board member Sarah Lyle.
IRHI services are 100 percent confidential and do not go through insurance. The organization pays for under and uninsured young adults to have clinic visits, STI testing, pregnancy tests, pap smears, HPV testing and vaccination and contraception medication. An underage patient does not need permission from a parent to be prescribed birth control and it is, in fact, illegal for clinic workers or healthcare providers to provide information to a guardian.
Through Ray’s Pharmacy, patients can receive free home pregnancy tests and Plan B, which can prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or after another birth control method fails. There are steps in place at the pharmacy for discrete and confidential pick-up of these items.
“Pharmacy owners Marlace and Rick have been faithful supporters since the beginning and are essential for our program,” Lyle said.
IRHI also provides condoms for anyone in the community at the following locations: Doe Bay; White Horse Pub; Island Hoppin’; Orcas Food Co-op; Rays Pharmacy; Orcas Libraries; SAFE San Juans; Orcas Community Resource Center and Island Primary Care.
Sara Farish has joined the IRHI team as its lead educator and facilitator of Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive sexuality education curriculum for ages kindergarten through senior citizens.
Farish is continuing the teen program at the Orcas High School for peer mentors to educate their fellow classmates about sexual health, relationships and consent. The students have led assemblies and worked one-on-one.
“I think it was very valuable to be able to provide peer-to-peer support and education that was tied to a reliable resource, instead of solely relying on adults. It is huge to be able to navigate that with a peer!” said Halle Thompson, class of 2016.
IRHI is supported entirely by donations and grants. It is currently part of the OICF Give Orcas spring catalog to fund teacher training and stipends for the education program. For more information, visit https://irhiorcas.org/.