Family-friendly art show

By Wendy Arnell Brophy - May 25, 2006

Dedicated staff members at Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard include (from left) Jenny Shubow, Patty Begley, R.N., Katie Hough, N.P., and Catherine Coogan, R.N. Photo by Ralph Stewart

What's new? After a long winter on Martha's Vineyard that's a question you want to ask with caution, what is fact and what is rumor? What's the real skinny?

One fact is that the time-tested Friends of Family Planning Art Show opens with a gala event tonight, from 6 until 8 pm at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury and you should be there.

The tickets, $40 at the door, entitle you to food from the Scottish Bakehouse and wonderfully decadent desserts donated by a plethora of great restaurants including The ArtCliff, the Daily Grind, Espresso Love, The Wharf, Chilmark Chocolates, and others. Plus you will have a chance to look at and even purchase art before the public opening on Friday. It is also a time to meet some of the artists, all of them from the Island.

The Memorial Day weekend show is once again free to the public. "Friends," headed by Judy Salosky, is the fundraising board that helps the Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard staff with salaries, rent, and supplies as well as projects including staff education, a vasectomy program, and the cost of condoms, which are available free to the public.

Guests at the festive opening party for last year's Family Planning Art Show. Photo by Diana Waring

Staff and program changes

In a recent telephone interview, Patty Begley, R.N., head of the agency for the past 23 years, spoke of a number of changes at the clinic. Some longtime staff members remain, including nurse Betsy Edge, nurse practitioner Katherine Hough, and Catherine Chase, C.N.M., a nurse practitioner and mid-wife. These women along with Ms. Begley continue as the stalwarts of the organization.

The new staff includes Catherine Coogan, R.N., who is a "fantastic addition," said Ms. Begley. The mother of a young son, John Edmund Coogan, she is working part-time. Longtime assistant to Ms. Begley, Miryam Gerson, has left to open her own business. Taking over the translation counseling is Jenny Shubow, who is trilingual and comes to the Island from Falmouth.

One of the biggest changes is that Family Planning is now doing HIV/AIDS testing since the AIDS Alliance of Martha's Vineyard has closed its doors.

"Most other Family Planning organizations do testing, but since the AIDS Alliance was doing it on the Island we did not want to duplicate their efforts. Now all of that has changed," said Ms. Begley.

After extensive paperwork beginning last November to make the agency the official AIDS test site here, the program got underway in February. Ms. Begley and Ms. Edge rose to the challenge of offering yet another service, doing even more paperwork and putting in longer hours. Each now works three 12-hour days per week.

SPECIAL THANKS TO

Ms. Begley and her staff expressed appreciation for the many contributions that will surely make the popular art show and opening gala a success.

Dee Dice, of Eden, for providing outdoor plants.

Louise Sweet for the indoor flower arrangements.

DJ Diana for the music.

To the very special Islanders who have contributed to help underwrite this project.

Judy Salosky and the board members, past and present, of Friends of Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard for their hard work and ability it takes to put on this show each year.

The small stipend from IDCS (Infectious Disease Clinical Services), administered through the Cape Cod Hospital, allows staff to be employed for two clinics a week, on Monday and Wednesday only between 4:30 and 7 pm.

"It allows us to do HIV testing, which is still anonymous, still confidential, and still free," Ms. Begley said. She went on to say that the testing can take two visits, one for the actual Orasure test which is done with an oral swab - there is no blood draw - and the other for counseling when the results are in. Currently the agency performs between five and 10 tests each week, plus an equal number of result counseling appointments. This represents an increase in the overall numbers of clients that the AIDS Alliance was seeing.

If a woman comes in for her regular check-up, for a Pap smear and well woman care, the nurses will often do the testing at that appointment in order to save time and another trip to the clinic. Nothing is entered into her Family Planning records; her identity is only known by the numbers on a bar code, which is separate from information on her Family Planning chart. Since the patient is the only one who holds the bar code information, the process keeps the tests confidential.

The HIV test clinics on Monday and Wednesday are for both women and men. They are walk-in clinics. Since no names are used on the tests, no appointments are made. Everyone is given a number and that is the only reference used when clients are tested and when they receive the results. "People can feel very safe, it's all very confidential," Ms. Begley said. "We have a lot of clients who do it as part of their routine health maintenance program. They come in once a year for the test."

New birth control options

New additions to the broad scope of birth control options includes the vaginal ring, a ring that is impregnated with hormones which are released over a three-week time span, then it is removed for one week. Other additions include the Fem-Cap, which replaces the previous Cervical Cap; the Patch; and the Mirena IUS, an intrauterine delivery system of Progesterone that will last four to five years before it has to be replaced, a vastly improved method over the IUD (intrauterine device) of the past.

Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard has shifted gears from an all-female client base to offering services to men too. There is counseling on contraception, information on how STIs (sexually transmitted infections) are transmitted, preventive prostate health care, and there is a vasectomy program. This program, funded by Friends of Family Planning, will offer free vasectomies.

The agency still offers free condoms to any who want them. "I think we distribute about 10,000 condoms each year," said Ms. Begley. "Anyone can come in and get what they need from the basket in the office, along with instructions on how to use them." This is just one of the many services the upcoming art show helps to fund.

But, on to the entertainment! The Family Planning Art Show, opens tonight, May 22, with a gala party. The show is open to the public free of charge this Friday through Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. Everyone is invited, all donations are welcome, and really, don't you need a new piece of art for your home? This is the time and the place to purchase it, for the artists, for Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard, and for all the many members of the community who benefit from their invaluable services.

Family Planning Art Show, preview party, Thursday, May 25, 6 to 8 pm, tickets $40; art show and sale Friday, May 26, Saturday, May 27, and Sunday, May 28, 10 am to 6 pm, Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Society Hall, Panhandle Road, West Tisbury. Free admission and parking to the art show.

For more information on programs offered or to make an appointment, call Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard, 508-693-1208.

Wendy Brophy, a freelance writer who lives in San Francisco, is a former president of Family Planning of Martha's Vineyard.