Carmen Cummings joins the Converge Team.
Carmen is originally from Oakland, California, and was a student at Jackson State University when she joined the team as an intern last fall. Carmen excelled in her studies, receiving her Master of Public Health after the completion of her internship with us.
When asked why she chose the public health field she responded, “When starting out my career, I initially wanted to become a nurse because of a family member who suffered from many illnesses and became dependent on pain medication. I wanted to work in the medical field to be of assistance to patients who did not see or know of any other resources to holistically manage their health. I then chose to enter public health to continue to offer this same information but from a community/population standpoint, instead of focusing on the individual.” She went on to explain how everyone has a right to information in knowing what resources are available to them. It is equally important that the community has input on changes they’d like to see to have some autonomy in managing their health; public health seemed like the best route to take to do so.
Carmen was eager to learn about Converge while using her expertise from her studies to support the Measurement, Learning and Evaluation team. As Converge continued to expand, Carmen jumped in and supported new Converge programs. She updated the clinic locator as Converge expanded to Tennessee and created training materials and presentations.
As her internship ended, we asked her about her Converge experience. “It was a pleasure being able to assist with providing and presenting information on contraceptives, as well as, researching accessible family planning clinics for patients to visit for needed services. I learned more about reproductive justice and how important it is to include the patient in decision making for their health, the importance of community partnerships, and some of the ways nonprofits can contribute to making a difference.”
Carmen will be joining the Converge team as a full-time employee in February. She will be the Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Manager (MLE Manager) working with our MLE team to support Converge’s data collection and training programs.
Converge is lucky to have Carmen on our team!
We also would like to thank our Community Engagement Director, Jazamine Hoskins, for spearheading our partnership with Region IV-Public Health Training Center and working diligently to ensure our interns have a great experience with Converge. It’s truly a full circle moment; Jazamine, too, began her Converge journey as an intern and has continued to excel within this organization ever since.Converge Submits Comment on Insurance Coverage for Contraception Provided Over the Counter.
Comment for Insurance Coverage of Over-the-Counter Oral Contraception
Thank you for this opportunity to share information regarding the need for insurance coverage for over- the-counter (OTC) contraception. Equitable access to contraception is critical now more than ever, particularly due to the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, which secured individuals’ right to abortion access. This devastating loss to reproductive autonomy has even further limited individuals’ ability to self-determine how and when to raise child(ren), a core principle of Reproductive Justice. Provision of OTC contraception without a prescription or cost-sharing is the next step in ensuring equitable access to contraception and supporting reproductive autonomy and Reproductive Justice.
Previous research conducted by Sundstrom and colleagues supports a robust body of research indicating individuals face barriers to receiving a prescription for contraception including time, transportation, cost, stigma, embarrassment and clinician refusal on the basis of religion. These barriers are particularly heightened in rural communities, communities or color, and LGBTQ+ identifying individuals. I have experienced these barriers firsthand, being from the South, a conservative geo-political climate that undermines and discourages comprehensive sexual education, leaving me with little knowledge of my contraceptive options. Further, as an individual who grew up without health insurance, requiring a prescription for contraception incurred additional costs associated with my method choice by requiring a physical exam.
These barriers are echoed by my colleague:
“Growing up as a young person in the Mississippi Delta, sex education was non-existent. Most of the information I received was from my peers, which often consisted of myths, half-truths, and a lot of horrific traumatic experiences they encountered. The lack of sexual education resources and deep generational trauma associated with sexual reproduction in the Black communities of the Delta gave me the courage to become an advocate for many young people who looked just like me.
It’s remarkable that we’ve come to the point in our country where we are prioritizing access to sexual reproductive products. OTC [contraceptive] pills being available in communities all across the US means removing one of the many barriers that so many people face just to get access to a medication. It would be a significant setback to require a provider prescription for these products. We have a duty to offer more access to contraceptives, especially after the overturn of Roe v. Wade and how that decision has fractured the progression of choice and freedom in our country. The ask is simple: make OTC [contraceptive] pills affordable and accessible to ALL people.”
In sum, providing insurance coverage for OTC preventive products without requiring a prescription can remove barriers to access, empower autonomy in healthcare decisions, and it make it affordable for individuals with and without insurance. Providing insurance coverage for OTC preventive products is a proactive approach to reducing additional related healthcare costs and can potentially decrease the financial burden on both individuals and the healthcare system. By discussing the importance of affordable access, patient autonomy, and the potential for cost savings that result from insurance coverage for over-the-counter preventive products, we can begin to unpack similar upstream factors that improve outcomes and reduce barriers in other areas of healthcare as well.Support Converge on Giving Tuesday
GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement, unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world. This Tuesday we are asking our supporters to put Converge on their list of donations.
Because of your commitment to our mission we can continue to expand #reproductive and sexual health care across #Mississippi. With your continued support, we’ll be able to make free or low-cost care a reality for many.Converge Exhibits at the Fall Community Health and Resource Fair
Converge’s Community Engagement Manager, Jazamine Hoskins, attended the Fall Community Health and Resource Fair hosted by the MS Shine Project and Magnolia Health in Bassfield, MS. While in Bassfield, Jazamine was able to make great connections and introduce the community to Converge, Personally, and the awesome services we offer.Society of Family Planning’s Annual Meeting
Converge’s Director of Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation, Dr. Ellie Smith, attended the Society of Family Planning’s Annual Meeting last week in Seattle, WA. Dr. Smith attended several sessions on cutting research related to contraceptive access, reproductive justice, and person-centered care. Dr. Smith stated her favorite session was Evaluation the use of Teleheath Services for Contraceptive Access.2023 Women’s Healthcare Conference
Our Medical Director, Renata Chatman, attended the Women’s Healthcare Conference hosted by the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. She left with helpful information, tools, and ideas to bring home to Converge to better serve our patients and clinics.Plans announced for a Right to Contraception Act to be filed in Mississippi’s 2024 legislative session
[Jackson, MS] Vice President of External Affairs, Jitoria Hunter, spoke with WLBT’s Courtney Ann Jackson on the upcoming Legislative Session and the Right to Contraception Act that could be filed.
Converge always urges people to be knowledgeable of all the FDA approved contraceptive options available to Mississippians.
As of now, no one knows what will be included in the bill or the types of contraceptives that will be left out. Lawmakers will return in January.
Converge Co-Founder and VP of External Affairs featured in The American Prospect on the Dobbs Decision
……….THE PINK HOUSE, THE STATE’S LONE ABORTION CLINIC for 23 years, operated by Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is now a luxury furniture and home decor consignment shop. The clinic closed the day before the state’s trigger ban took effect after the Dobbs decision. Jamie Bardwell, co-founder and co-director of Converge, which provides family planning care, describes the general reaction of Mississippians to the ban as “Wait, I thought abortion was already illegal.” It was, she says, “like the bomb that didn’t drop.”
The irony of the Mississippi gubernatorial race is that even though health care has emerged as a top issue, reproductive issues have received little attention. Mississippi is so far out in front in so many grim health metrics that it could be in a category by itself. In a country with worsening maternal health outcomes, Mississippi has continuously and conspicuously failed its women. Its infant mortality rate is the worst in the country at 9.39 deaths for every 1,000 babies in 2021, a five-year high. Black women had a maternal mortality rate four times higher than white women. There is no neonatal intensive care unit in the mostly Black and rural Mississippi Delta. A person has to go to Jackson or Memphis for a maternal fetal specialist.
Contraceptive access isn’t any better. “A lot of providers, for example, would counsel especially Black women or young people to choose certain methods based off of what they thought was better for their bodies,” says Jitoria Hunter, Converge’s Vice President of External Affairs. “They didn’t have access to the wide range of FDA-approved options for contraception.”
Poor reproductive health joins a long list of health care burdens that contribute to Mississippians’ abysmal health profiles. What gives Medicaid expansion supporter Presley some leverage with conservative voters taken in by the health-care-for-low-income-people-as-“welfare” argument that Reeves, an expansion opponent, regularly uses, is that neighboring Louisiana and Arkansas have both expanded Medicaid. The Arkansas example has some appeal for Mississippi lawmakers. Arkansas officials secured a waiver that allowed federal Medicaid funds to go to private health insurers instead of through state government departments, giving state lawmakers at least the appearance of backing a private plan rather than a government-sponsored one. With nearly half of Mississippi’s rural hospitals at risk for shutting down, Medicaid expansion could relieve some of the burdens of uncompensated care that these hospitals provide to the uninsured.
To read the full article, click the link below.
[Jackson, MS] – On Friday, September 29. 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Title X federal funding, to Converge to administer family planning programs in Tennessee. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to increasing access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care among individuals with low incomes.
Under Title X, Converge will support a network of clinics in Tennessee offering high-quality and person-centered sexual and reproductive health care. Services including birth control consultations, STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and more will be offered for free or low-cost. No one who seeks care at a Converge clinic in Tennessee will be turned away based on their ability to pay.
Converge is the current administrator of Title X funding in Mississippi where this model has proven successful. “We are excited to share what has worked in Mississippi while continuing to adapt and innovate to meet the unique needs of Tennesseans. Together, we can advance equity and ensure everyone has the opportunity to live life on their own terms,” said Danielle Lampton, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Converge.
Too many people lack access to sexual and reproductive health care and suffer poor health outcomes as a result. In 2021, Tennessee reported a maternal mortality rate of 62.4 deaths per 100,000 live births. This rate increases when looking at maternal mortality rates among people of color, and is coupled with a 10.1% uninsured rate , higher than the national average.
“In Tennessee, as with so many places across the country in the post-Dobbs era, there is a heightened need for clinics that offer the full range of sexual and reproductive health services. We want to help fill these gaps with high-quality, person-centered care. We want Tennesseans to know there is help available,” said Jaime Bardwell, Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director, Converge.
Converge is a Mississippi based non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring everyone has access high-quality, person-centered sexual and reproductive health care when, how, and where they need it. Converge collaborates with health care providers, insurance companies, and community partners to build a health care system that places people at the center of sexual and reproductive health care.
Converge Work featured at the National Reproductive Health Conference
Dr. Ellie Smith & Dani Lahn, MLE Team
Converge’s Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation team presented at the National Reproductive Health Conference, hosted by Clinical Training Center for Sexual and Reproductive Health (CTC-SRH). The poster discussed the evaluation of our most popular online training course, Person-Centered Contraceptive Counseling. The analysis included a cohort of nursing students from University of Mississippi Medical Center who took the course in Fall of 2022. Results indicated that the overwhelming majority of participants demonstrated a significant improvement in knowledge on key topic areas, recommended the course, and reported that they would use what they learned in practice.
All people deserve access to quality, affordable reproductive and sexual health care. Your support helps us expand access, training, and advocacy to improve the patient experience for everyone.