State observes LGBT month


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To commemorate the state and National LGBT Pride Month, Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal encourages all physicians and healthcare providers to undergo cultural competency training to help them better understand and serve the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population.

Also as part of LGBT Pride Month, the Department is featuring healthcare facilities that are excelling at providing inclusive and equitable care for the LGBT community on its new Public Health Innovators webpage at http://www.state.nj.us/health/populationhealth/innovators.shtml.

Governor Murphy issued a proclamation recognizing June as LGBT Pride Month. “We must remain vigilant against the bigotry that continues to villify lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered individuals and encourages violence against them,” the Governor’s proclamation reads. “It is incumbent upon all of us to work together to achieve a safe and tolerant society for generations to come.”

Commissioner Elnahal spoke about the need for training and integrated healthcare during a roundtable discussion this week with patients, doctors, staff, and family members at the PROUD Family Health Center at Robert Wood Johnson Somerset – the state’s first and only clinic designed specifically for the LGBT community.

“As a doctor, I know that many people in the medical community are either uncomfortable or unskilled in treating the LGBT community,” said Elnahal. “This has got to change. People in the LGBT community deserve to be treated with dignity and professionalism so they can openly discuss their health issues without fear of being judged or mistreated.”

“I didn’t learn enough in my residency or training about the unique health issues facing LGBT population,” said Commissioner Elnahal, a graduate of Harvard Medical School. “It should be an essential part of clinical training.”

Elnahal toured the year-old RWJ clinic, which announced an upcoming expansion, and then discussed the challenges the community faces in the healthcare system during the roundtable.

The clinic’s clients expressed how grateful they are to have the integrated services provided at the PROUD center in a setting that is accepting and welcoming. Many told the Commissioner that the culturally competent care provided at the center is a contrast to previous healthcare experiences.

“It’s nice to be accepted by everybody here. This is a one-stop shop, I can see a doctor for any condition,” another shared.

A transgender client said she is grateful for the welcoming care she gets at PROUD, even down to the fact that all of people who work there know and remember her from visit to visit. She noted that “the proper pronouns are used,” referring to some culturally incompetent doctors’ insistence on using the pronoun associated with the person’s gender at birth.

Joe Wilson, a gay New Brunswick man who grew up in Cape May and returned to New Jersey after living in San Francisco, said the thing he appreciates most about PROUD is, “You can talk openly with your doctors and not be judged.”

Some of the participants and program staff told Commissioner Elnahal that insurance companies and Medicaid policies on insurance claims often make it hard for a transgender person to get the hormones and services they may need.

Commissioner Elnahal said the Murphy Administration is committed to increasing access to medical care to all residents, “no matter who they love or how they identify,”

“This is a civil rights issue and I want to serve as a megaphone,” Commissioner Elnahal said, also asking the participants to notify him of any changes in state policy that could help them. “We need to focus on what policies we can change to make sure more institutions follow Robert Wood Johnson’s lead.”

The Commissioner has asked the PROUD center to share their best practices so the Department can promote them among hospitals across the state.



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