CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) – “They are healthcare refugees – forced to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles for their essential reproductive healthcare,” Planned Parenthood of Illinois (PPIL) President and CEO Jennifer Welch said.

Patients are coming to Illinois from across the country. Planned Parenthood in Champaign just unveiled a several million dollar expansion to help treat them. They say a third of abortion patients are from outside the state, and they expect numbers to keep rising.

The renovated facility opened last month. They say they’ve been getting an unprecedented number of calls for services, and the Champaign expansion helps them serve more patients, more quickly.

“Since Roe was overturned, the expected surge of patients coming to Illinois is here,” PPIL Chief Medical Officer Dr. Amy Whitaker said.

PPIL says we live in the largest surge state for abortion patients in the country. They’re spending millions of dollars to meet what they call a “historic” rise in demand.

“We’re seeing hundreds of patients from out of state every single month from over 30 states,” Whitaker said.

That’s because the Supreme Court overturned landmark case Roe v. Wade in June, triggering abortion bans or restrictions in many states.

“We anticipated this moment,” Welch said.

Welch has been preparing since 2016, planning expansions at several facilities – including the Champaign Health Center.

“Because we are surrounded by so many states that have lost access to care and because we’re located in the middle of the country,” Welch said.

The expansion includes a brand new floor of procedure rooms, ultrasound rooms, a recovery room and more. It’s 5,000 extra square feet to help ease the burden of people traveling from places like Kentucky, Alabama and Idaho.

“When you hear those states, think of how far they’re traveling,” Whitaker said.

Or from neighboring Indiana, where they say 11% of abortion patients in Champaign are from.

“And that’s a 40% increase from last year, and we only expect that number to grow,” Whitaker said.

They say renovating the Champaign facility doubled the amount of in-clinic abortion care they can provide in central Illinois. And some state lawmakers aren’t planning to stop there.

“We are also looking at some other ways that reproductive health can be expanded here, not just the facility, not just services, but how people can get access through our Medicaid options as well,” 103rd district State Representative Carol Ammons said.

I asked Welch if she’s confident the Champaign location will be able to keep up with out-of-state demand if it continues to rise. She said this expansion, new health centers in the state, increased staffing, and Telehealth are all ways they’re meeting the need of patients traveling here.