Colorado health department report on LGBT health first step in new conversation
After a year of research, a 40-page document yeilds goals, but no action plan, yet
June 14, 2012 | 12:45 am
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 3:35 pm)
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment released the first-ever comprehensive study of LGBT health issues Wednesday evening. But the 40-page booklet will ultimately serves as a conversation starter and coalition builder than a playbook.
The state health department led the LGBT Health Outcomes Planning Project and was funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Colorado joins a handful of other states including Oregon and Massachusetts in undertaking the comprehensive study approach.
“What a time to be having this conversation,” Project Director Julie Graves said. “This marks the end of a planning process and the beginning of a due process.”
After a year of collecting data, 30 hours of strategic planning sessions, and outreach to more than 20 community partners, the CDPHE has established four goals: increase services, build community awareness, address policy and improve research about LGBT health outcomes.
Bob Bongiovanni, the manager of the HIV Care and Treatment program at the CDPHE oversaw the first goal, increasing access to services in the community.
“It’s not only about access, but about quality,” Bongiovanni said.
One goal in the service vein is to create a better database for health care consumers to consult about LGBT-friendly physicians, instead of relying on word of mouth.
Bongiovanni said even as a working member of the department, if his health insurance changed, he would not know which provider to turn to for LGBT-friendly care and would likely rely on a word of mouth recommendation.
The access and quality question also falls into providers, and arming them with the knowledge and training to effectively serve an LGB or T patient, Bongiovanni said.
The second goal of the strategic plan, focuses on engaging the community and creating a more acceptable culture.
Goal planning leader Bonnie Moya said it’s about starting to question the systems that are in place and thinking of ways to better represent all communities in health care.
The third goal will focus on state policy.
“It’s time to take full advantage from the leadership in the state and take them to the mat,” Loretta Marquez Zimmer, policy goal leader said.
The last piece of the puzzle, and the fourth goal, is to maintain better data collection in the state.
Indira Gujral said the data would not only help determine future funding, but also serve as a mechanism to identify the various realms of research around LGBT health issues and create more collaboration.
Each of the four goals came with a set of objectives and tentative implementation dates ranging from a year to five years out. However, there is not a charge as to how each objective will be met.
There is talk of a partnership between One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, and the CDPHE to implement the goals, but no details are available yet, said Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado.
The release of the study served as the kick-start for the next phase, said Joni Reynolds director of Public Health Programs for CDPHE.
“The documents are a great success and there is life to it,” she said.
The direction that life will take was addressed in a panel discussion of community leaders and partners lead by Arthur McFarlane II, the program evaluator for the strategic plan.
Garnering assets, building community coalitions and sustainable relationships were identified as key aspects for the strategic plan to be successful.
Jennifer Woodard, former program director at the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, said the key for the strategic plan to be a success will be to identify a point person and a place to start working.
“There is great leadership, but we need a driver,” Woodard said. “We can’t do it all at once, but we need to prioritize a place to start.”
Jeff Fard, better known as Brother Jeff, said the group does not need to look to a national model for implementation, but into the Colorado community. Building alliances and coalitions will be the key to success.
He also cautioned the group to not let the work of the study be placed on a shelf to collect dust.
“Implement something. Show people their time and insight is respected.”
Bongiovanni said implementing the plan will include a dose of introspection for the LBGT community. As with the rest of the nation, Colorado’s LGBT population experiences higher rates of tobacco, alcohol and substance use; infectious disease; and depression.
“We many need to confront things that we are not comfortable with,” he said.