September 29, 2011 at 3:24 pm EDT | by Lou Chibbaro Jr.
Whitman Walker, Mautner launch LGBT seniors program
Leslie Calman of the Mautner Project

Leslie Calman of the Mautner Project. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health and the Mautner Project, a national lesbian health organization, announced this week that they are launching a joint program called People Advocating for LGBT Seniors (PALS).

“PALS is a free program that connects compassionate, trained volunteer visitors with LGBT elders, 55 and older, who are living at home or in assisted living and nursing facilities,” the two groups said in a statement.

“The program also provides companionship and help, when needed, to access community, health, and government services,” the statement says.

“There are currently few culturally competent, targeted services in the metro D.C. area for the needs of LGBT seniors,” said Mautner Project executive director Leslie Calman. “It makes sense to expand our long-established, professionally led volunteer services for lesbian and bisexual women to embrace these members of our community,” she said. “Working with Whitman-Walker hugely expands the reach of this new program and provides resources well beyond what Mautner Project can offer alone.”

Don Blanchon, executive director of Whitman-Walker Health, said combining the resources of both groups would enable the new project to better serve the needs of LGBT seniors, including both physical and mental health needs.

“Both of us have a long-established base of volunteers of all ages who want to serve the LGBT community,” Blanchon said.

The joint statement says members of the community interested in volunteering or in receiving services should contact PALS at 202-332-5536.

The announcement of the creation of PALS follows the posting of information on the website of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community earlier this year about a similar LGBT seniors program offered by SAGE Metro D.C., a local LGBT seniors group. A representative of SAGE Metro D.C. couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

D.C. Center Executive Director David Mariner released a statement saying the SAGE program consists of a “team of social workers and volunteers.” He said he was “a little bit disappointed that a similar program is starting” by Whitman-Walker and Mautner, adding, “I question whether duplicating an existing service is really the best use of anyone’s resources.”

Asked to comment on Mariner’s concern, Blanchon said in a statement that a growing population of LGBT seniors in the D.C. area indicates a need for more than one community-based program to fulfill the needs of this population. He said Whitman-Walker would utilize the resources from its staff of 142 employees.

“Our partnership with Mautner reflects the realization that one organization, regardless of its size and program scope, could not realistically meet this growing community need,” Blanchon said.

Lou Chibbaro Jr. has reported on the LGBT civil rights movement and the LGBT community for more than 30 years, beginning as a freelance writer and later as a staff reporter and currently as Senior News Reporter for the Washington Blade. He has chronicled LGBT-related developments as they have touched on a wide range of social, religious, and governmental institutions, including the White House, Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the military, local and national law enforcement agencies and the Catholic Church. Chibbaro has reported on LGBT issues and LGBT participation in local and national elections since 1976. He has covered the AIDS epidemic since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Follow Lou

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