Addressing LGBTQ Needs in Social Services

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What kind of barriers do LGBTQ individuals face when it comes to accessing social services? Check out the challenges this community deals with when obtaining health and social care, as well as the ways your organization can help make it easier for sexual and gender minorities.

June is Pride Month

As we move into the month of June, communities across the nation are celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month. This celebration focuses on the diversity that sexual and gender minorities bring. It also serves as a reminder for inclusion, as LGBTQ individuals often face discrimination and marginalization. 

LGBTQ people are at a statistically higher need for social services. They are more likely to be homeless, become infected with HIV, and attempt suicide. LGBTQ individuals also experience higher rates of substance abuse, behavioral health issues, and are less likely to get preventative services for cancer. 

These disparities are even higher for transgender individuals, who face additional barriers to receiving care due to social stigma and community ostracization. 

Barriers That LGBTQ People Face

LGBTQ individuals face  additional barriers for a wide variety of reasons. With many cut off from the communities they grew up in, they are left with many adverse social determinants of health

Despite the fact that the LGBTQ community is incredibly diverse (coming from all racial, social, cultural, religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds), there are common experiences for all that impede proper health care. Typically, we can break these barriers down to three categories:  

  • limited access 
  • negative experiences 
  • lack of knowledge 

Limited Access 

The first area of difficulty for LGBTQ people in obtaining social services is proper access to care. LGBTQ people are statistically less likely to have health insurance, and information asymmetry prevents many from knowing how to get insurance and/or find alternatives. Even basic care is difficult for many sexual and gender minorities to find. Without access to affirming health care, members of the LGBTQ are at higher risk for medical complications and future adverse social determinants of health—such as, homelessness, food insecurity, and unemployment. 

Negative Experiences  

Even when LGBTQ people find basic health care, they are often prevented from receiving help because of negative experiences. Due to the social and cultural stigma associated with gay, lesbian, and transgender people, patients often report discrimination. One bad experience with an inadequately trained health care or social service professional could turn an LGBTQ person away from seeking care in the future.  

Lack of Knowledge 

For those LGBTQ individuals who do find access to care and do not have negative experiences, they still face other barriers in receiving care. LGBTQ people sometimes discover that providers do not have the knowledge or experience to care for their specific needs. LGBTQ issues can be easily overlooked, which means that members of this community do not receive the whole person care they need. Understanding the unique challenges, risks, and issues that LGBTQ members face is critical to effective care. 

In the US, LGBTQ people are disproportionately more likely to need care from social service organizations, often due to the stigma they face. 

Three Ways Your Organization Can Help

Despite these barriers to LGBTQ social service care, there are actually many things your organization can do to help improve care.  Here are three simple steps you can take to better address the needs of the LGBTQ community in the health and human services: 

  1. Adopt Inclusive Practices 
    Adopting inclusive practices is one of the most simple and effective changes your program can make. Begin by ensuring that the language used in your organization is inclusive and LGBTQ positive. Changes such as asking for preferred pronouns, creating a gender-neutral bathroom option, and establishing a safe atmosphere all help combat the barriers mentioned earlier. The more an LGBTQ individual can trust your organization—whether it be a food bank or resettlement service—the more likely they are to seek out your help. 
     
  2. Educate Yourself on Community Resources 
    Just as LGBTQ individuals can experience lack of access and knowledge, so can social service organizations. If you are not already familiar, make sure you know the LGBTQ-specific services available in your community. Most areas have LGBTQ resource centers that can help with care coordination for sexual and gender minorities. Check out this case study of one organization doing exactly that. 
     
  3. Incorporate Whole Person Care 
    Effectively serving LGBTQ individuals requires a whole person care approach. Someone’s sexual or gender identity is an important aspect of their identity and as such should play a role in the care they receive. The better your organization can approach the whole person—through care coordination and case management—the better these people will be cared for. 

Eccovia’s industry-leading case management software ClientTrack™ has helped many organizations—including LGBTQ focused programs—improve their quality of care. We are proud to support those who work to increase tolerance, inclusion, and opportunity for all those in their communities. Happy Pride Month! 

Enjoy This Article? Then You’ll Like: 

HIV And COVID-19: The Need for Care Coordination 

Case Study: Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network 

Sources Used: 

  1. https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2020/11/not-debate-lgbtq-people-need-and-deserve-tailored-sexual-and-reproductive-health 
  2. https://www.hhs.gov/programs/topic-sites/lgbt/index.html  
  3. https://www.lgbtqiahealtheducation.org/wp-content/uploads/Providing-Inclusive-Services-and-Care-for-LGBT-People.pdf  
  4. https://healthlaw.org/resource/protections-for-lgbtq-people-with-behavioral-health-needs/  
  5. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/lgbtq-rights/reports/2010/12/09/8787/how-to-improve-mental-health-care-for-lgbt-youth/  

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