LGBTQ Health Initiative Launches in Asheville to Promote Innovation

The Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE) is providing a grant of $10,000 to Western NC Community Health Services (WNCCHS) to support its leadership and innovation in LGBTQ health, including its Transgender Health Program and HIV/AIDS services.

WNCCHS and CSE are joining together to form this new LGBTQ Health Initiative to improve access to primary health care and support services for LGBTQ people across the 18 counties of Western North Carolina. The partnership will also collaborate on developing resources and trainings to support other Southern community health centers in offering LGBTQ-friendly primary health care and support services.

WNCCHS now provides primary health care to about 16,000 patients annually, 95 percent of those patients are at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, with a high number of those having no insurance at all. Since its founding in 1994, WNCCHS has been responding to LGBTQ healthcare needs and now runs the only Transgender Health Program in the region, serving more than 250 patients from annually across 18 Western NC counties.

During the fall of 2017, CSE will run a series of free clinics at WNCCHS to serve LGBTQ clients and community members; the first clinic will take place in September and will focus on safety issues for transgender people.

“WNCCHS is delighted to continue our collaboration with Campaign for Southern Equality in our efforts to improve access to high quality,  culturally competent health care for our diverse LGBTQ population in western North Carolina. Stigma is still a very potent barrier to care for many in rural areas of the mountains. As our collaboration expands, CSE and WNCCHS hope to offer other Southern community health centers a best practice model for vulnerable LGBTQ populations. CSE brings such high quality expertise to this collaboration, and we are honored to work with them.  Their continued financial support of our Transgender and HIV programs are very critical for low income LGBTQ patients,” says Scott Parker, Director of Development and Collaboration, WNCCHS.

According to the Williams Institute, more than 336,000 LGBTQ people live across North Carolina, including 37,800 transgender individuals, but our community is more likely to live in poverty and without insurance. New research from the East Carolina University LGBTQ Health Promotion Team shows that LGB adults in North Carolina experience “substantial health inequities … compared to their heterosexual peers,” citing factors including discrimination and stigma. The 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that among respondents in North Carolina, “26% did not see a doctor when they needed to because of fear of being mistreated as a transgender person, and 42% did not see a doctor when needed because they could not afford it.”

“The combined impact of discrimination and disparities impacts LGBTQ people’s health and well-being. We start by asking what it will take for LGBTQ Southerners to survive, be healthy and thrive. Access to respectful, quality health care and legal services is a key part of the answer. We’re thrilled to embark on this next chapter of our collaboration with WNCCHS, which has been a pioneer in LGBTQ healthcare in Western NC – and across the South,” says Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality.

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