HHS announces key objectives on LGBT health issues

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius this week released an annual report of the LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee at HHS, which outlines the department’s many accomplishments in LGBT health over the last year and announces the department’s LGBT objectives for 2012. Read our press release here.

The announcement includes a number of important new initiatives that the Task Force has been a leading advocate on, such as research, cultural competency, anti-violence efforts, implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s LGBT provisions, funding opportunities and outreach to care providers across the country. The 2012 objectives include:

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), in partnership with the Administration for Community Living (ACL), will release a training video to educate care service staff, healthcare providers, and state and local government officials on the needs and rights of LGBT older Americans in nursing homes, hospice facilities and home health care, including a list of best practices and instructions on how to identify and address discrimination.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will financially support the Community Transformation Grant awardees that included LGBT people as target populations to study the impact of chronic disease prevention and health promotion in LGBT communities.
  • The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA) will create and implement a plan to distribute LGBT-specific culturally competent training tools and guidance for health care providers nationwide, so that those providers can appropriately assess, treat and refer LGBT clients.
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will launch multiple advertising campaigns and research initiatives to target a variety of young Americans who are at particular risk of using tobacco — including LGBT youth.
  • The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) will establish cultural competency training and non-discriminatory policies aimed at protecting LGBT youth, for all runaway homeless programs. Also, the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) will conduct ongoing research to determine the specific needs of LGBT homeless youth, and will make that information available on their web site at www.findyouthinfo.gov.
  • The HHS Office of Women’s Health will fund new pilot programs in five locations nationwide to test new methods for reducing and identifying obesity risks for lesbian and bisexual women — a group who has documented higher rates of obesity than heterosexual women.
  • Through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program’s Special Projects of National Significance, HRSA will award up to eight grants to organizations that focus on improving access to quality HIV care for transgender women of color. They will also focus on programs that increase retention for those who already have access to adequate care.

The Task Force has been a leading advocate on a number of these important new changes. Specifically, through our New Beginning Initiative (NBI) and our Aging and Economic Security Project, we organized key LGBT stakeholders, LGBT health experts and LGBT older adults to collaborate on the upcoming LGBT older adult care services training video with CMS and ACL announced today.

We also led the effort to include LGBT people in NIH data collection and research. Through our Queer the Census campaign, we helped make the case that LGBT people and families are everywhere in the United States, and that in order to better serve us, the government must increase its efforts to collect LGBT-specific demographic data as well as information regarding our specific health needs.

Our advocates and coalition partners with the New Beginning Initiative have worked diligently to ensure that the HHS’ Community Transformation Grant awardees will specifically focus on preventing and remedying chronic disease in LGBT communities. Today, HHS not only committed to this, but they also extended additional support to these groups in order to make sure each program is successful by analyzing the effectiveness of those programs.

Finally, the Task Force’s New Beginning Initiative was also a key stakeholder in compiling resources from a variety of LGBT organizations in the effort to have SAMHSA and HRSA distribute those resources nationally — and yesterday, HHS has affirmed its commitment to these efforts.

The Task Force is excited and invigorated by the number of new and continuing efforts HHS has made to ensure that LGBT people are given affordable, adequate and affirming health-related services.  We look forward to continuing these efforts with HHS — and will continue to advocate strongly for the many initiatives that are still left to be done.