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ST. LOUIS (ChurchMilitant.com) - Catholic-run health clinics are providing birth control pills at 26 Walgreens stores in St. Louis, Missouri, including four clinics in Illinois.
On August 24, SSM Health Medical Group (SSM), a nonprofit Catholic hospital system, assumed operation of these walk-in clinics changing their name to SSM Health Express Clinic at Walgreens. SSM is a trademark originally standing for the Sisters of St. Mary, who in 1922 laid the foundation in St. Louis for what later would grow into this current multi-million dollar health network.
After SSM assumed ownership, Jason Merrill, SSM spokesman, confirmed that these Catholic-operated clinics will provide 30-day refills for contraceptive pills previously prescribed by a physician — the same policy carried by the clinics previously run in-house by Walgreens.
The spokesman for SSM was confirming what had been previously stated by the medical group in their press release published the day the partnership was announced. Because Walgreens advertises on their national website the variety of birth control products offered by the chain, SSM verified, "The clinics will continue to provide the same services previously offered by Walgreens Healthcare Clinics."
SSM describes itself as "a Catholic, not-for-profit health system serving the comprehensive health needs of communities across the Midwest through one of the largest integrated delivery systems in the nation."
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops forbids Catholic organizations from dispensing contraceptives. "Catholic health institutions may not promote or condone contraceptive practices but should provide, for married couples and the medical staff who counsel them, instruction both about the Church's teaching on responsible parenthood and in methods of natural family planning," the website states.
A spokesman for Walgreens commented last week that partnerships with outside health systems, such as the Catholic nonprofit SSM, are part of the growth plan for the Illinois-based chain. The medical group boasts of more than 8,500 physicians and more than 33,000 employees operating in four states.
James Bleicher, MD, regional president of the SSM in St. Louis, heralded the partnership with Walgreens. "By combining the convenience of Walgreens locations with the personalized care and expertise of the SSM Health Medical Group," he commented, "we are able to offer exceptional care where and when patients need it."