COLUMBIA — Boone County residents who visit the Columbia-Boone County clinic for sexually transmitted diseases will begin paying a $10 fee under the proposed budget for fiscal year 2010.
The fee for STD testing is one of several changes or fee increases the Columbia-Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services is proposing for the next budget year. The budget was the subject of a public hearing at Tuesday night’s meeting of the City Council and is scheduled for final approval after a third public hearing by the council on Sept. 21.
The Columbia STD clinic is in the Sanford-Kimpton Health Department Building at 1005 W. Worley St. It is open from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, or by appointment.
Visits to the STD clinic have been free for Boone County residents, but Mary Martin, public health manager, said the fee will begin Oct. 1 if the council approves. People from outside Boone County, who previously paid $10, would have to pay $20. College students in Boone County can show school IDs as proof of residency to pay the in-county fee.
HIV testing will remain free, Martin said.
The STD clinic saw 2,694 visits in 2008. From January to July of this year, there have been 1,435 visits. Through July of this year, there were 514 positive tests for chlamydia, 106 for gonorrhea and eight for syphilis in Boone County, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
Martin said there have been fewer visits to the clinic this year, a fact she attributes to the new fee for out-of-county visitors. Still, she said, the clinic continues to attract people from outside the county because it’s open in the evening and it’s less expensive than others.
The Health Department budget estimates the new STD clinic fees will generate $30,000 per year. The money will be used to cover the cost of lab tests, Martin said. The clinic does its own tests for gonorrhea and chlamydia, but it has the Missouri Health Department lab conduct others.
Martin said she’s unsure whether the new fee will discourage people from visiting the clinic. Martin said that a lot of visitors are younger than 19 and have low incomes, so their visits can be billed to Medicaid. She added that the clinic will consider waiving fees for those who truly cannot afford them and that it will waive fees for anyone who comes to the clinic because a sexual partner has tested positive.
The state provides the clinic with medicine to treat chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, and the clinic provides the medicine free of charge to patients. Martin also said Schnucks will provide free antibiotics prescribed by the clinic.
The clinic has noticed an increase in positive STD tests lately, Martin said. She added that Boone County is known to have a high chlamydia rate.
Alternative STD testing sites in Columbia include Planned Parenthood, which bases fees for those without insurance on household income, and Rain-Central Missouri, which provides free tests for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV and Hepatitis C, according to its Web site. The MU Student Health Center offers students a combined chlamydia and gonorrhea test for $50.
Kim Allen, director of the Center on Adolescent Sexuality, Pregnancy and Parenting, said she hopes the new cost to visit the STD clinic will “not have a lot of negative consequences.” Allen said the center plans to provide free HIV tests at a booth at MU on World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.