Michigan Healthcare Providers Discuss LGBT Focus Initiatives

By AJ Trager

FERNDALE - Over 30 healthcare and LGBT professionals from around Metro Detroit met on July 15 at Affirmations to discuss how the healthcare industry can better improve itself, specifically on being more accessible and accommodating to the care of trans identified individuals and the LGB community.

The diverse council, comprised of individuals with different skills from various education, health and cultural backgrounds, included healthcare providers, health system administrators, diversity and inclusion professionals, LGBT community organizers and LGBT community members, all who will craft a plan to work towards closing the healthcare gap for LGBT community. The meeting was led by Kathleen LaTosch, the project director, Lydia Ahlum Hanson, the Health and Wellness manager, Johnny Jenkins, director of programs and Victor Walker, program director.

With the aide of Affirmations, the council decided it will put together a training initiative for healthcare providers so that they can include safe space practices in their daily workplace, in addition to staying up to date on the health issues and concerns of the LGBT community. The training initiative is in the planning stages and since the last meeting in May, Elliott Popoff, an Affirmations Health and Wellness Intern, has assembled information on LGBT health trainings in the country. These other trainings will serve as models for the first ever cultural competency training initiative focused on Southeast Michigan.

One of the biggest highlights of the meeting was the transgender community discussing how accepting or knowledgeable they feel healthcare providers are of their identities. Not surprisingly, the majority of the participants agreed that their healthcare professional could be much more knowledgeable of LGBT health concerns.

In small groups, the council collaborated on the initial steps that are needed in order for cultural competency and cultural acceptance to infiltrate the healthcare system. Key concepts included how to disassemble discrimination and religious bias as well as how to get aide to those LGBT members living in poverty or who do not have access to prejudice free healthcare. The exercise was stopped short due to time but will reconvene in September. One thing is clear, as a result of the meeting: changing policy and access are high priorities that need to be amended in the healthcare system for LGBT individuals.

Present at the session were representatives from Transgender Michigan, Equality Michigan, Alternatives for Girls, ACLU of Michigan, ACCESS, Ruth Ellis Center and Affirmations as well as healthcare professionals from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, Oakland County Health Division, Mercy Health Saint Mary's, AIDS Partnership Michigan, University of Michigan Comprehensive Gender Services Program, Henry Ford Home Health Care, Clinic for Child Study, ALORDE Collective, Wayne State University School of Social Work, CHE Trinity Health, St. John Providence Health System, Superior Air Ground Ambulance and University of Michigan-Dearborn, Beaumont Health System and Rosemary Jozwiak & Associates.

This was the second meeting of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Health Equity Council of Southeast Michigan. The first meeting was held in May and discussed pressing LGBT-related health concerns. Members of the group have decided to meet six times a year, leaving two more meetings for the year of 2014. The effort is funded by The Jewish Fund, and the process is scheduled to be implemented in 2015.

Visit the Health Equity Council website to get more information on how to get involved and stay connected at http://www.goaffirmations.org/group/HEC.
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