By JUNE CRENSHAW, LETI GOMEZ & BARBARA LEWIS
This announcement brings together two organizations with a long and storied history of working for a healthy LGBT community. Both organizations were established to address unmet needs.
For Whitman-Walker, it was the need for a safe and affirming space for gay men and lesbians to get the health care and supportive services they needed. In the 1970s, when Whitman-Walker was founded, quality health care for the LGBT communities was extremely rare. Whitman-Walker provided services for those living with HIV/AIDS and expanded to include specialty services for transgender men and women and ultimately for anyone in our community.
Mautner Project had a more intimate start. It was founded in 1990 following the death of Mary-Helen Mautner in 1989 of breast cancer. Shortly before her death, Mary-Helen asked her partner, Susan Hester, to start an organization that could help other lesbians facing the overwhelming challenges of life-threatening illnesses. Over the following 23 years, Mautner embraced that mission, also evolving over time to include health education and advocacy to improve the health of lesbians and bisexual women.
Now, both organizations have made the decision to continue their evolution together. And the entire community will benefit from that decision.
One way the community will benefit is that Mautner Project’s clients will continue to have access to their existing services, including health education and support services. Going forward, they will also have access to Whitman-Walker’s full range of high quality health care services, including primary medical care, gynecology, mental health services, dental care and legal help.
Women have been an integral part of Whitman-Walker since the very beginning. The collaboration with the Mautner Project is a natural extension of that history into the future. We can expand our commitment to providing the highest quality of care possible to lesbians and bisexual women in the community by expanding our service base to more women. And it gives Whitman-Walker a chance to talk about all the great services that are here for women, many services of which the community remains unaware.
But, beyond any benefit for the organizations is the benefit for the community.
By bringing together two of the pre-eminent LGBT health care organizations in the District of Columbia, we will be able to serve our community better, more efficiently and more effectively. Through the combination of employees, volunteers, patients, clients and supporters, we will be able to reach further into our shared community with our message that the health care you need and deserve is available.
That has always been the goal of both organizations: to make our community healthier, stronger, safer and happier. We are excited about this first step to working toward this shared goal together.
June Crenshaw is board vice chair of Whitman-Walker Health; Leti Gomez is a former Whitman-Walker board member; and Barbara Lewis is a physician assistant at Whitman-Walker.