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Staff photo by Doug Strickland / Skylar DeRight holds up two IUDs to be photographed in the offices of Cherokee Health Systems, where she works as a nurse practitioner, on Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, in Chattanooga, Tenn. DeRight works with A Step Ahead to offer free long-term contraceptives to women in the Chattanooga area.
some text Susan Vandergriff is the Executive Director of A Step Ahead Chattanooga. Photo provided by A Step Ahead Chattanooga.

More women in the Chattanooga region will be able to obtain free, effective, long-term birth control through A Step Ahead Chattanooga and a $250,000 grant.

Following a significant uptick in requests for contraceptive services in late 2018, A Step Ahead Chattanooga leadership began discussions with The Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation, which awarded the grant. 

"Our service numbers were up 94% in the first quarter over 2018 and 97% in the second quarter," said Board President Sarah Ross. "We are so thankful that the Soderbergs recognize the importance of what we do and are supporting it this generously."

The Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation engages in venture philanthropy through strategic grant-making and collaborative partnerships that have maximum and catalytic impact with the goal of boosting the quality of life for all people, with an emphasis on women and children. 

"Providing access to contraceptive options helps to ensure that women are empowered to make the best decisions about their health and to plan for their family's needs — and ensure that children specifically have the best start at life," said Elsa Soderberg.

(Read more: Data examines impact of contraception on Southeast Tennessee)

some text Jessica Millman, Executive Director, The Elsa and Peter Soderberg Charitable Foundation. Photo provided by A Step Ahead Chattanooga

The grant period ranges from Aug. 5, 2019, through March 15, 2020. During that period, new and increased gifts from Hamilton County donors will be matched dollar for dollar, and new dollars raised in 10 surrounding Tennessee counties will be matched two dollars for every dollar raised up to $200,000.

A Step Ahead Chattanooga is a prevention-only organization that provides information

about all methods of birth control and ensures free access to long-term reversible methods,

such as implants and intrauterine devices, commonly called IUDs, to women in 11 Tennessee counties.

Depending on the specific device selected, IUDs and implants are effective for three, five or 10 years. If and when the user feels ready to become pregnant and has it removed, she quickly returns to her baseline fertility. 

A Step Ahead Foundation Chattanooga has connected more than 2,900 women with long-term, reversible birth control since opening its doors in late 2014.

"Community education is also a major component of our mission," said Susan Vandergriff, A Step Ahead Chattanooga Executive Director. "When women get accurate information about health resources, including birth control options, that information informs their decisions and plans."

(Read more: Planning and prevention: Nonprofit organization gives women access to contraceptives)

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.

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