FirstLook announces that the doors to its new state-of-the-art sexual health and pregnancy center are now open. The new facility significantly expands the non-profit organization’s ability to provide residents of the region with high-quality, confidential and accessible sexual health care, all free of charge.
Since 1995, FirstLook has served more than 40,000 residents – many of whom face unintended pregnancies – in Ellis County and surrounding areas. After six years of strategic planning, FirstLook can now double its number of available appointments with more land, more space and more resources, according to Donna Young, CEO.
âOur services are unique to Ellis County in that they are free, regardless of income,â Young said. âWe have registered nurses who practice in their scope of practice under the direction and supervision of registered physicians. We support our patients with a full team of loving and caring people. Trained men and women provide a holistic approach to care, including medical, educational, emotional and spiritual support, care management and material assistance.
Young said his overall vision is to reach more men and women with expanded services in a center designed to meet long-term community needs.
âWe want this beautiful, comfortable and welcoming facility to convey our main message that every life, every person, is precious and made in the image of God,â she said.
The new 11,000 square foot facility sits on two acres of land donated by The Avenue Church in Waxahachie. The clinic has a large porch and includes four consultation rooms, four examination rooms (two with ultrasound capabilities), meeting space, a fully equipped demonstration kitchen, a classroom, a chapel, a baby shop, administrative offices and ample parking.
âOur community, like any other community, faces a tremendous situation where unwanted pregnancies and unhealthy sexual health decisions are rife,â said Vernon L. Witherspoon, Chairman of the Board. “Giving people direct and accurate information makes it possible to make a better and more informed decision, which is obviously essential when a life is at stake.”
Although modern, the property is designed to feel right at home and connects to the past through the use of design features and period furnishings.
As an example, the wall that adorns the kitchen was made from pink bricks salvaged from the oldest house in Ellis County before it was destroyed. The cafe bar’s tile backsplash mixes new tile with detailed vintage tiles from the 1930s, each individually signed by the artist. A deacon’s bench from Reagor Springs Church and dressers from the 1800s add importance to the decor and provide a welcoming atmosphere. Even rooms that don’t feature antiques offer an inviting style with names like “The Man Cave”, “Serenity Room” and “Happy Days”.
âI am excited about this new building,â said Buddy Rigotti, Client Coordinator. âThe future is wide open for FirstLook. We have a great opportunity here in Ellis County and surrounding areas to reach out to people who are in an uncertain pregnancy situation. “
Composed of 14 employees, including three nurses and two doctors, as well as 15 volunteers, FirstLook’s full range of services includes pregnancy tests, diagnostic ultrasounds up to 28 weeks, tests and treatment for STIs, counseling, mentoring, doula support, abortion healing, and more.
In addition, FirstLook offers a wide variety of courses in Labor and Delivery, Prenatal, Parenting, Life Skills, Bible Studies, and CPR for Adults and Infants, many of which are offered virtually due to the pandemic situation.
âGod called us to FirstLook for a time like this, to provide positive alternatives to the tragedy of abortion, while respecting a woman’s decision without ridicule or rejection,â Young said. “We are here in our community to serve, to make a difference, one person at a time, one life at a time, one baby at a time, a father, a mother, a family.”
Data from FirstLook indicates a growing need for services:
â¢ In 2020, the clinic had 2,221 visits, a 60% increase from 1,391 visits in 2019.
â¢ Of the visits in 2020, 413 pregnancy tests were administered, 347 ultrasound images were shown and 237 clients were tested for STIs.
â¢ Approximately 60% of FirstLook customers are between 20 and 30 years old, while 20% are over 30 years old.
âIt’s really exciting to be part of the present, but also the future,â said Melinda Tedesco, Client Coordinator. âWe see clients in so many different situations, and I think our center can fill a void. We can fill the gaps in support, education, medical support and listening. I think we have a great opportunity to serve in this regard. “
Ellis County is expected to grow 150% to nearly 500,000 in 2050, according to data from the North Central Texas Council of Governments and the County Development Department. The county’s health care needs are also expected to increase significantly during this time.
âFirstLook is a place of hope and peace,â Ellis County Judge Todd Little said. âPatients with unplanned pregnancies can visit FirstLook for advice and guidance as they discuss their choices. The Ellis County Commissioners Court is proud to help fund this initiative to improve access to health care for women, and we hope they will choose life.