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Planned Parenthood officials say they will rebuild torched facility in El Centro

Authorities are still investigating what caused a Planned Parenthood clinic to burn down in El Centro. It was the only reproductive health care clinic in Imperial County. And as KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman tells us, it provided services for people coming from out of state and south of the border.

Authorities are still investigating what caused a Planned Parenthood clinic to burn down in El Centro early Tuesday morning, but Planned Parenthood officials said they will rebuild the facility as they work to accommodate patients in the meantime.

The Planned Parenthood Imperial Valley Homan Health Center was the only abortion provider in all of Imperial County, according to a state database.

Sandra Duran with Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest said the loss is devastating for the medically-underserved community.


"A lot of the patients we see don’t have health insurance, they have low incomes, they need to get care here," Duran said. "So we’re trying to do everything we can to restore access."

The El Centro clinic not only served residents of Imperial Valley, but up to 50% of patients came from out of state or Mexico. Planned Parenthood officials have been moving appointments to centers in San Diego or Riverside while they try to figure out temporary solutions which could include tele-health or mobile units.

"We actually had several out-of-state patients scheduled yesterday (Tuesday) and all of them were able to get care elsewhere," Duran said. "We’re really happy that was able to happen because obviously it’s really timely for them, and they have to take time off of work, they have to figure out travel, they have to figure out child care — so waiting an extra day sometimes isn’t an option for people. As far as how far people are willing to travel, unfortunately with the state of sexual and reproductive rights in this country, people are being forced to travel really long distances."

The clinic first opened in 2015. Like other Planned Parenthood locations, it has been the subject of protests. Duran said they are unsure exactly what caused the fire. A release from the El Centro Fire Department Tuesday said the fire started in a nearby Salvation Army storage yard before moving to the nearby Planned Parenthood building.

"El Centro Fire Department is investigating the fire and has requested the assistance of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Investigators," the news release said.


Anyone with information about the fire is asked to contact the El Centro Fire Department. Duran said the fire lead to destruction of the health center and administrative space, referring to it as a "total loss." Duran said the organization will rebuild in Imperial Valley.

"We’re going to be back and we’re going to be here for the community," Duran said. "We don’t have a sense of timeline yet — obviously, it could take six months, it could take a year, we’re unsure exactly how long it will take — but we’re committed to rebuilding."

The El Centro clinic also offered services like birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection treatment and screenings.

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