DENVER – Women’s healthcare is reaching a new dawn in the state of Colorado, courtesy of a new Catholic Charities initiative whose goal is to eliminate abortion from the definition of women’s healthcare.
The new initiative, called Marisol Health, hopes to empower women by offering a holistic option for healthcare, which also includes aid with housing and every spectrum of human services.
Just ask Marisol’s Vice President, Jan McIntosh. She has been involved with the evolution of Marisol Health from its establishment in 2016, with dreams to empower women in a big way.
“It was really during 2016 that we developed the whole Marisol concept with expanded medical care – a continuum of care to meet the urgent and ongoing needs of vulnerable women experiencing unexpected pregnancies, as well as women living in poverty with children,” McIntosh told CNA.
“Trying to eliminate the need for abortion is really at the heart of this, by building a network of well-integrated services to provide the solutions to the concerns that might lead women and men down the path to make that decision to terminate a pregnancy,” she said.
Marisol’s system essentially works as a directory of aid that will connect women to a network of pre-existing medical facilities, maternity centers, and long-term housing programs, which have all been interwoven to offer women and families all-encompassing care.
Depending on their situation, a woman could walk into one of Marisol’s centers and come out with a new doctor, a new place to live, and a new community of support, including emotional counseling, parenting help, and child education services.
These services are in connection with established community organizations. According to McIntosh, Marisol is only possible through the joint efforts between Catholic Charities and key partners within the community.
“We think it’s very important to work with the community and with other organizations that are serving the women and children that we are servicing,” McIntosh said.
Marisol Health has already kicked up a lot of excitement for women around the state, and has become a successful option for healthcare at one of Colorado’s biggest college campuses: CU Boulder.
Jenny Langness, a Marisol Program Director involved at the CU Boulder campus, told CNA that “students have been excited to learn about our continuum of care.”
“Our hope is to make CU Boulder a campus that is welcoming and accessible to pregnant and parenting students, and through Marisol Health Services, will offer women true alternatives to abortion,” Langness said, adding that Marisol’s presence on campus has been able to “empower women.”
Marisol was originally brought to the university’s campus through Real Choices – an existing student organization which has now merged with Marisol – to educate young women and men about alternatives to abortion through seminars and events that speak about a holistic approach to sexual health and overall wellness.
Jen Boryla, a Marisol Volunteer Coordinator, told CNA that “we want a health center that promotes the wellbeing of the entire person – mind, body and spirit.”
“We hope that by educating and teaching the younger generation about a better way to be healthy and to think about their family planning, we can influence our culture broadly, as well as impact individual’s lives,” Boryla said.
So far, Marisol has seen a successful response at all of their locations. Since 2013, when the idea of Marisol was starting to take shape, they have seen 240 babies born to mothers that their services have helped. Within the past 7 months, Marisol has also provided all-inclusive prenatal care to more than 77 women.
“We are definitely having a positive response, and we are growing every month in the number of women who are hearing about our services and that are coming to us,” she continued.
In addition, Marisol Health centers are also offering mammograms – a vital piece of women’s healthcare that other clinics do not offer. They also offer free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds and STD/STI testing.
“We have partnered with St. Joe’s mobile mammography program, and they will be servicing us at both of our Marisol sites and also at the Bella Natural Women’s Care in Englewood,” she noted.
Marisol’s success has already made it a potential model for healthcare in other states and dioceses throughout the country. Jan said that Marisol is “actively planning” with other programs across the country that are interested in developing more comprehensive healthcare for women.
Future goals for Marisol include one major, overarching theme: ending the need for abortion in Colorado.
“In order to do that, we need the resources for the intensive care that this takes, and we do believe that there are thousands of men, women and families who need these services,” Jan stated.
“Our real hope is to fill our current health centers to capacity and then with the support of donors and grants and other funding to expand to other communities in Colorado, both along the Front Range and possibly into the mountain communities.”