Take Control Initiative, a contraceptive access nonprofit in Tulsa, is celebrating 10 years of work in the community.
Initiated by the George Kaiser Family
Foundation in 2010, Take Control Initiative (TCI) is a program that aims to improve access to health care and birth control for Tulsans through education, outreach and free clinical services in Tulsa County. Data shows it has. From 2009-2018, Tulsa’s teen birth rate decreased 57.7%, and abortions decreased 51.2% from 2009-2017, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health and clinic data.
Executive Director Laura Bellis attributes those results, in part, to the diverse backgrounds of the staff. She, Post-secondary Education Coordinator Nneoma Nze andProgram Director Gaby Ortega Lagorin all came to TCI by way of education. Bellis and Nze formerly worked with Teach for America, and Ortega Lagorin worked with City Year Corps.
“We have a team with a number of different service-related or even some non-traditional backgrounds. We have a software developer right now,” Bellis says. The staff has grown from two to more than a dozen people. “Some people who have more experience with the foundation side or the data policy side like Emma (Swepston, data and policy director) who leads the Metriarch data collaborative work. She had been part of making the equality indicators with the city when she was at Community Service Council.”
The Metriarch data project, launched in 2019, collects publicly available information about Tulsa and Oklahoma — like birth rates, health disparities, access to health care clinics — into one place. It’s available online at metriarchok.org/catalogs. Bellis says one of TCI’s roles is acting as a bridge between state and local leaders, health care clinics and everyday people seeking health care. The data project helps accomplish this by putting resources all in one place, she says.
TCI also helps clients and partnership sites overcome physical barriers, like finding transportation to health care appointments. The organization partners with Lyft to provide rides to family planning appointments at no cost to the patient.
“We use concierge options, so folks don’t need a Lyft account or a credit card. We schedule the ride,” Ortega Lagorin says. Clients can receive updates via text, just like a typical Uber or Lyft, and if they don’t have access to text messaging, TCI staff has a plan for that.
Data like teen birth rates and graduation rates shows older adolescents aged 18-24 often fall in a service gap, Bellis says. “So we have been working to more intentionally reach them with programs like this.” TCI has focused on diversity and outreach more to address those service gaps, launching the Peer Educator Heath Program in January in partnership with the University of Tulsa, Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Tech, Nze says.
“I think one of the things that we tried to focus on is how to have people see their own identity as needing this service,” Nze says. “We’re an outside organization — even though we have the gusto or the passion and the resources — we don’t understand the community as much as the people who are within that community.”
To learn more about Take Control Initiative™ or to donate, visit takecontrolinitiative.org.