Health centers a mecca for LGBT community

Openness a key factor in acceptance

by Lainey Millen  Special Assignments  specialassignments@goqnotes.com
Published: November 26, 2011 in A&E / Life&Style

When one thinks about the Planned Parenthood organization, it’s usually associated with birth control and women’s healthcare. Well, it’s no longer the family planning clinic that it once was and it’s a step ahead of the game in providing for the LGBT community.

Since its inception more than 90 years ago, Planned Parenthood has “promoted a commonsense approach to women’s health and well-being, based on respect for each individual’s right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex and family planning.” There are approximately 800 health centers across the U.S. which are run by 83 locally-governed affiliates.

Each center is staffed with physicians, nurse practitioners and others in a supporting and caring environment.

Now, in today’s world, they have expanded their services to the LGBT community as well and provide such in a professional and respectful manner.

In the Carolinas, there are 11 centers that cover every area from the coast to the mountains in both states. Although appointments are encouraged, some walk-in services are available. The website shows payment options, holiday schedules and more.

In North Carolina, there are clinics in Asheville, Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Raleigh and Wilmington. In South Carolina, offerings are available in Columbia and Charleston.

Most are operated under Planned Parenthood Health Systems, Inc., except Chapel Hill, Durham and Fayetteville who are under the Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina umbrella.

Centers offer an assortment of the following services: abortion referral, abortion services, birth control, general healthcare, HIV testing, LGBT services, men’s healthcare, morning-after pill (aka emergency contraception), pregnancy testing and services, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, as well as women’s healthcare. Check with local clinics to get more information.

When it comes to treatment of a LGBT person, however, most only have a protocol for lesbians, gays and bisexuals.

A pilot program is underway in the Raleigh clinic for treating and caring for transgender clients, reported Kate Swift-Scanlan, a certified nurse midwife and clinician at the center.

At the national Planned Parenthood conference, Raleigh was asked to develop this specialized service and they were ready to head the call. Since most of the centers nationally had little or no experience or expertise in treating transgender clients, Planned Parenthood felt it was time to do so.

During this trial period, heightened sensitivity training was instituted. Transgender services are being tailored to meet the needs of the individual client and an informed consent model is utilized. Clinicians obtain a full healthcare history and review the file. They also review current or future hormone therapy regimens. Risk behaviors are discussed and once the evaluation process is completed, the staff will recommend transition or continuance of transition protocols. The medical staff also counsels on mental health issues, general health and surgical options. Referral and followup are instituted.

Jennifer Browning, center manager at Charlotte, expressed her excitement at the work being done in Raleigh and looks forward to being able to implement the transgender services when the research and development is completed. She remarked that there was a great deal of acceptance on both sides of the spectrum between the LGB clients and the staff. She said that she was relieved to know that these clients felt comfortable and safe with Planned Parenthood.

One thing that all clinics have available is HIV testing. Browning said that in her experience, she found that some clients wanted the news quicker than others. Some receive the instant results test, which is ready in 10 minutes. However, there are many who prefer the tests that require longer laboratory time. When required, counseling services and referrals are made available.

Browning also shared that Planned Parenthood has set up booths at Pride Charlotte and hopes to continue to share its story with the community.

In Durham, the staff and volunteers there have also set up at NC Pride and have marched in parades in years past.

Up in Asheville, staff member Callie said that she regretted that there was no hormone therapy for transgender clients available right now. But, she realizes that will change once Raleigh has finished their work. She commented that the services that they provide come with less judgment than traditional providers.

Lea Salas Cordova, 70, retired, transgender and who serves as a Spanish medical interpreter, as well as a member of Duke University’s LGBT Task Force, participated in staff training on transgender healthcare issues over the summer. Through her work with the Durham Gender Alliance support group and Trans Health Initiative of North Carolina, she encouraged Planned Parenthood to open up its services to the transgender community. She had approached the University of North Carolina and Duke University, but felt that the locations were not public enough to make a difference. In a personal note to friends, she commented that she was “impressed by the staff’s enthusiasm and courteous, competent, aware attitude toward the addition of these services to their responsibilities. … This is a major step forward, a ‘clinical jump’ on behalf of the local trans communities.”

Planned Parenthood also has many resources for LGBT teens, adults and parents on subjects regarding sexual health, orientation and gender identity and the coming out process. Volunteers are always being sought to work within the Planned Parenthood community.

Overseas, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has worked for 40 years to ensure that proper healthcare is provided to men, women, and youth in neglected areas across the globe.

For more information, visit planned parenthood.org. : :