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NC Health Centers Meet Needs of LGBTQ Community

Western North Carolina Community Health Services has received a $10,000 grant from the Campaign for Southern Equality to expand medical services to the LGBTQ community. (justgrimes/Flickr)
Western North Carolina Community Health Services has received a $10,000 grant from the Campaign for Southern Equality to expand medical services to the LGBTQ community. (justgrimes/Flickr)
August 21, 2017

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Community health centers across North Carolina meet the medical needs of a diverse population, many of whom aren't finding adequate care elsewhere.

One such group is the LGBTQ community, and Western North Carolina Community Health Services, or WNCCHS, has just received a $10,000 grant to help serve this population.

It's from the Campaign for Southern Equality (CSE), and Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, the group’s executive director, says the need for these health services is great.

"LGBTQ people, unfortunately, continue to be second-class citizens under the law, and also continue to experience disproportionate health disparities in a number of different areas – including mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, and then oftentimes, just access to care where people will be treated with cultural competency and respect," she states.

WNCCHS runs the only Transgender Health Program in the region, serving more than 200 patients a year.

This fall, WNCCHS and CSE will run a series of free clinics on topics ranging from safety concerns to legal issues.

Buncombe County has a higher percentage of same-sex couples than any other county in the state. Charlotte, Durham and Raleigh already offer similar resources.

Scott Parker, WNCCHS director of development and collaboration, says it serves 18 counties in western North Carolina, and this collaboration is just the beginning.

"Our hopes are to help other community health centers, especially in the deep South – offer them best practices for how to make your health center a very welcoming place for the LGBTQ community, and that it doesn't need to be a secret,” he states. “You need to be able to promote that, so people will see that and know it."

Beach-Ferrara maintains teaching other health centers across the state can make a big difference.

"What's often missing, though, is the access to the kind of training and support that can allow a clinic to go from saying, 'Hey, we're open to this and we're ready to do this,' to saying, 'We're going to institutionalize these practices, so from the second an LGBT person walks in the door of this clinic, they know that they're welcome,'" she stresses.

According to The Williams Institute, more than 336,000 LGBTQ people call North Carolina home, including 38,000 transgender individuals. They also are more likely to live in poverty and without health insurance.

Reporting by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded in part by the Park Foundation.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC