Region’s first LGBT clinic counters a ‘double stigma’

Last week, VCU opened Central Virginia’s first LGBT-exclusive clinic. Here’s why.

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Update #1 — August 26, 2013; 7:01 AM

Last week, the region’s first LGBT behavioral health clinic in Central Virginia opened in Richmond at VCU’s Nelson Clinic at 401 N. 11th Street (see below). Two transgendered individuals were the first served.

The idea for the clinic came roughly six months ago when Keri Abrams, Transgender Services Program Manager at the Fan Free Clinic and Dr. Lettie Flores, a former psychologist working at VCU, approached Dr. Isaac “Ike” Wood, the Senior Associate Dean for Medical Education and Student Affairs at VCU.

“They were asking for a psycho-pharmaceutical clinic for transgendered individuals,” Dr. Wood said. “They felt like there was a large need for the Central Virginia community.” There was. The closest clinic was nearly 100 miles away in Washington, D.C. Dr. Wood agreed, but thought it best to create a clinic that would cater to “any sexual minority.”

He said that one reason a clinic would be helpful is that LGBT individuals have higher risks of depression and substance abuse, and evidence suggests that roughly 40% of them attempt suicide.

“It has to do with societal stigma,” Dr. Wood said about anti-LGBT sentiment. “And unfortunately there continues to be a stigma with regard to mental illness.” As such, he said LGBT individuals can deal with a “double stigma.”

The counter this, the new clinic provides “culturally sensitive, culturally competent care,” Dr. Wood said. Workers have “specialized training in understanding and addressing the needs of sexual minority patients.”

He said the only comments and feedback he’s received about the new clinic have been “extremely positive.” He added that it’s association with VCU is appropriate, as the university strives to serve a diversified population.

Dr. Wood said the clinic will largely rely on the word-of-mouth of those who receive care–as well as outreach by the Fan Free Clinic and the Gay Community Center of Richmond–to promote its services. The clinic is open every first and third Tuesday of the month, though Dr. Wood said it may increase its hours of operations if needed.

The VCU Nelson Clinic is located at 401 N. 11th Street.

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Original — August 16, 2013

The VCU Medical Center will be the first behavioral health and medication management clinic in the region to assist the LGBT community in psychiatric services. The clinic will open on August 20th and will be offered every first and third Tuesdays of the month at the VCU Nelson Clinic at 401 N. 11th Street.

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Here’s the release:

The Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center will soon be the first in the region to offer a behavioral health medication management clinic exclusive to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Operated by the VCU Department of Psychiatry, the clinic will open on Aug. 20 at the VCU Nelson Clinic, 401 N. 11th St., in Richmond, and will be offered every first and third Tuesday of the month. The department collaborated with the VCU Center for Psychological Services and Development, VCU’s Health Collective and the Fan Free Clinic.

All new patients will need a referral by a licensed therapist or counselor. For more information or a referral, contact the Department of Psychiatry’s intake line at 804.828.2000.

Isaac Wood, M.D., professor, senior associate dean for medical education and student affairs in the VCU School of Medicine and attending physician of the clinic, said the idea of a culturally competent psychopharmacology clinic was created in response to the lack of psychiatric services and trained staff supporting the LGBT community in Central Virginia, and the clinic is aimed to raise awareness of the unique mental health needs of this community and provide culturally sensitive training opportunities for young healthcare professionals.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Health, one in four Americans experiences a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. Evidence suggests between 70 and 90 percent of individuals suffering from mental illness improve their quality of life with a combination of medication, therapy and support. In addition, having routine mental health checks are as important as routine physical exams.

photo by Quinn Dombrowski

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Nathan Cushing

Nathan Cushing is a writer, journalist, and RVANews Editor.

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