Odessa Online (Texas) (04.14.13)
Ector County Health Department in Texas saw more STD patients after Planned Parenthood closed in March 2012. Health department director Gino Solla stated that the county’s STD numbers increased and the county clinic treated 1,164 STD patients in 2012, up from 886 in 2011. The increase has strained the already small department.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s project, “County Health Rankings and Roadmaps,” assesses health county-by-county throughout the nation, and produced a uniform report on the majority of Texas counties. The report only provided information on chlamydia in its STD section, revealing that Ector County’s chlamydia numbers have been increasing since the program’s beginning, from 412 per 100,000 people in 2010 to 570 in 2013. Ector County is ranked 21st in counties with Texas’ worst chlamydia rate, according to the report, two spaces better than Midland County, which ranked 19th worst. From the 232 counties reporting to the County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, Ector County ranked near the bottom in overall health and not above 150th in the state in any category.
Solla says the STD increase is due to riskier behavior by the newer county residents from the oilfield boom and the lack of sexual health education. Ector County Independent School District (ECISD) spokesman Mike Adkins declared that the community and schools have focused on sex education for a number of years due to high teen pregnancy rates. Adkins noted that ECISD had a comprehensive sex education program taught during health class until 2005–2006, before changing to abstinence-only from 2006–2007, and then until 2011–2012, when the county moved to abstinence plus.
Ector County Commissioner Dale Childers indicated that he does not know what could keep STD numbers down in the county, stating that it goes back to core values of families. Childers said, “I don’t know that we can solve this problem with government.” Regarding staffing in the county, he mentioned, “Every single department needs more people, but we’re just going to have to prioritize and make good decisions.”