Updated:MARION COUNTY, Fla.,None — People have been noticing billboards in Marion County advertising free vasectomies. WFTV learned Wednesday the federal government is paying for the billboards and the surgeries. It's a program that's been offered for years, but the county just started advertising it.
Billboards don't always command your attention, but it's difficult not to notice the sign for free vasectomies posted by the Marion County Health Department along Baseline Road in Ocala (see map).
"They actually cut prices on getting your cats and dogs neutered and spayed, so that falls in line with Marion County, we're progressive," resident Henry Galyen said.
The Marion County Health Department told WFTV the four family-planning billboards it purchased for roughly $10,000 in recent months have lead to some serious inquiries.
"Who's walking through the door?" asked WFTV reporter Melonie Holt.
"They come from every walk of life," said Debbie Brakefield, advanced practice nurse at Marion County Health Department.
For now, there are no income restrictions. The health department received a family-planning grant under the federal Title 10 program. Title 10 already provides family-planning dollars to every health department in the state.
Marion County's grant provides an additional $100,000 in funding a year for three years. It's allowing the department to streamline its clinic and lift income restrictions on its vasectomy program.
WFTV was told the feedback has been positive.
"We offer free condoms, what's the difference in offering vasectomies?" resident Alan Kloman asked.
"After all, men need to have choices, too," Brakefield said.
The billboards come down next month and Marion County's vasectomy program will remain unrestricted through July 2011.
Marion County told WFTV, before it lifted the income restriction on its vasectomy program, it performed 20 to 30 free procedures each year. The number is now closer to 100. A vasectomy would normally cost $300 to $400.