Next week, Chase Brexton Health Care will join more than 1,200 sister organizations across the country in celebration of the national community health center program, which has served more than 24 million – one in 15– people nationwide.
Chase Brexton has the honor of being among a few historically LGBTQ community health centers to also be a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC). As with every FQHC, we welcome all individuals with open arms. As an LGBTQ institution, we work to ensure our LGBTQ patients, staff and community members are given the most culturally competent and relevant support.
The work we do as an LGBTQ community health center is vital. So vital, that when our organization was struggling through its own internal changes, our LGBTQ patients and supporters reminded us of the vulnerability of our LGBTQ patients and the incredible need Chase Brexton fills. The call for competent, compassionate, and supportive care and resources was significant because the need is significant.
As our nation struggles to align health care needs with political designs, it is critical we remember the necessity of open, welcoming care for all communities, but especially LGBTQ communities that have faced and continue to face significant health care obstacles.
More importantly, the losses for LGBTQ individuals should ACA be repealed could be significant. Under the ACA, the rate of LGBT individuals without health insurance fell from 34 percent to 11 percent, according to Out2Enroll, a national program founded to connect the LGBT community with the options offered under the ACA.
Cuts to Medicaid would leave thousands of low-income LGBTQ individuals and their families without access to affordable health care coverage. Changes would reduce or eliminate protections against discrimination on the basis of health status, including HIV status. The loss or reduction of the Medicaid part D extra coverage would essentially create devastating effects on the health of thousands of patients with HIV. Further, federal protections related to sexual orientation and gender identity which were built into the Affordable Care Act would all but disappear.
In the last 18 months, Chase Brexton alone provided quality care, including primary care, dental, behavioral health, and social support, to approximately 40,000 patients. Of those patients, more than 5,000 identify as LGB and more than 2,300 identify as trans or gender-diverse. Our trans youth health care program, GenderJOY, serves 840 patients, including patients from out of state and even internationally. Community Health Centers have long been on the forefront of LGBTQ care, and their array of services take a whole person approach to addressing the health disparities that our communities face.
In addition to serving patients who seek out our care, we have reached into the LGBT community and beyond to offer training and education. Since its inception in November 2015, our LGBT Health Resource Center has trained 78 organizations and 3,853 professionals, provided more than 20 free elder lunch and learns on topics ranging from estate planning to LGBT safety, and we offer a half-dozen free group meetings and community events every month.
Many of us today are concerned about what’s ahead for our nation and its health care. Not only does this question concern our patients who rely on this care, it concerns each of us who are a part of the community health center system and who care about the stability, safety, and wellness of our country.
FQHCs and community health centers have existed, grown, and remained an important facet of American life through both Republican- and Democratic-majority times, through financial boons and crises, and through times of civil and political uncertainty. While we are in a unique political time, it is imperative that we pull together to access the fundamental resources that all humans deserve.
For more information, please visit the resource center website.
Nate Sweeney is executive director, The LGBT Health Resource Center of Chase Brexton Health Care.