Saskatoon

'We're turning folks away': Saskatoon Sexual Health seeks $50K for move after outgrowing existing space

A clinic that acts as a catch-all for reproductive health services in Saskatoon says it has a plan to expand after having to turn away more than 400 people last year.

Centre says up to 15% of people who show up for STI screenings, birth control, other services turned away

Saskatoon Sexual Health Centre has used eye-catching campaigns in the past to let people know about its services. (Submitted by Sexual Health Centre Saskatoon)

A clinic that acts as a catch-all for reproductive health services in Saskatoon says it has a plan to expand after having to turn away more than 400 people last year.

Saskatoon Sexual Health announced this week that it's working to get a new space up and running by January 2020.

The non-profit will share space with OUT Saskatoon, which is moving in a few weeks to the Riversdale neighbourhood on Avenue C North.

The clinic has been saying for years that it has outgrown its existing space, which offers full screenings for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, pregnancy testing, birth control and other services.

More than 3,500 people walked through the doors last year, an increase of 1,500 over 2017.

"We're turning folks away. So folks will show up for a drop-in clinic and once it's full we'll work with them to either make an appointment, come back at another time, have a reduced service," said the clinic's executive director Heather Hale.

She said more space will mean less stress on everyone.

"We work really hard to be accommodating so that often means that we will squeeze people in, we will double-book appointments."

Executive director Heather Hale said Saskatoon Sexual Health has outgrown its existing office on Second Avenue. (Submitted by Heather Hale)

To fund the move to a larger space, the clinic is appealing to the public to raise $50,000, which will cover renovations to turn the former warehouse into clinic rooms.

The clinic, and its expansion, feeds a gap where people do not feel comfortable accessing sexual and reproductive health services, Hale said.

"We see those services as a fundamental human right, and something that every human should have access to. And we know that folks don't always have access to that," Hale said.

'It's time to kind of get out of the basement and into the streets,' is the clinic's tagline for a new campaign. (Submitted by Heather Hale)

The clinic also provides educational services, which Hale said is particularly important in Saskatchewan where there are really high rates of unplanned adolescent pregnancies and STIs.

"It's really exciting to be able have people come in maybe with a little bit of hesitancy and be able to interact with someone who is there to answer their questions, is knowledgeable, is not there to judge," Hale said.

"When people have options and choices they are able to know better and do better."

There are already sexual and reproductive health services offered in other places in the city, including at OUT Saskatoon, but they're not available every weekday like at Saskatoon Sexual Health.

With files from CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning

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