The Center builds access to wellness with new pharmacy and clinic
Since its founding in the early 1990s, the Center has strived to give Southern Nevada’s LGBTQ folk the help they couldn’t find elsewhere. Its Downtown headquarters is packed with resources—individual and group mental health services, a free computer center, meeting spaces, yoga classes, shower services for the housing-insecure, a lending library and more—intended to benefit not only the LGBTQ community but anyone who’s hurting and in need.
Now, the Center plans to add two more important elements to its community-building mission: a self-sustaining pharmacy and a primary care health clinic. It’s long overdue, says the Center’s CEO, John Waldron. “If you were to ask a member of the LGBTQ community [where to go for] comprehensive health and wellness … there are maybe one or two sources in Southern Nevada.”
He cites some dismaying statistics: 73% of transgender people say they’ve been treated differently by medical personnel because of their LGBTQ status, while 56% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people reported discrimination by medical personnel that ranged from harsh verbal or physical treatment to a flat-out refusal of care.
The Center hopes to provide a place where anyone can get the care and medication they need without fear of persecution—and wants to get it going quickly. Waldron spoke to the Weekly about the organization’s evolving wellness mission.
What kind of wellness offerings does the Center currently provide? We’ve historically provided HIV testing and counseling, but in 2020 we started doing full STD screening. And should they test positive on anything, we have an on-site nurse practitioner who can see and get them the treatment they need. In cases where a client wants to talk about PrEP—the drug that is used to prevent HIV, for those people who are HIV negative—they can also meet with our nurse practitioner to talk about the PrEP program.
The Center is adding an on-site pharmacy. What motivated that decision? Right now, we work with Optum as our contracted pharmacy. When somebody gets a prescription here, they go to the Optum pharmacy and fill it. The advantage to our clients [of an on-site pharmacy] is that they can come get the testing that they need, see a nurse practitioner for any treatment that they might need and then walk right over to our pharmacy and be able to fill their prescriptions and be on their way with their scripts in the same visit. That’s critical when it comes to things like HIV.
We know that when somebody tests positive for HIV, it’s essential that we get them on medications as soon as possible, because we know that when somebody takes their meds consistently, eventually [their HIV] will be undetectable. And when somebody is undetectable in terms of HIV, then we know that they are untransmissable as well—a campaign called “U equals U.”
A full health clinic would fulfill even more wellness needs in-house. How badly does the Valley need it? If you’re a member of the trans community or the intersex community, it can be really challenging to find a provider. And often, when they do find providers, they’ll be in a situation where the provider will misuse their pronouns. They will not respect them. They will not understand the unique challenges that they might be facing.
I’ll give you one quick example: We have a client of the Center who is a member of the intersex community; their pronouns are they/them. And when they went to a primary care provider here in Southern Nevada and explained to the doctor that they are a member of the intersex community … the doctor made them go get a drug test, because they didn’t believe that this person was telling the truth and that there was something wrong with them. Those are the kind of problematic scenarios that people in the LGBTQ community face sometimes when seeking health care.
How has COVID-19 added urgency to the Center’s mission? We’ve done a lot during the COVID crisis. [We have] 1,200 meals a week going out to people who are still in their homes and not able to access food. And a lot of people in the LGBTQ community were significantly impacted by COVID; there was a lot of unemployment faced. We’ve been able to help them with housing programming.
What’s the timetable for the addition of the pharmacy and clinic? The pharmacy is likely to be online in the beginning of 2022, [and] we’re hopeful to be able to start primary care in 2022 as well. Right now, we work with Huntridge Family Clinic; they provided the nurse practitioners who work here on-site. We’re hopeful to strengthen that partnership and expand it to the point of offering primary health care here.
Original story here: https://lasvegasweekly.com/news/2021/apr/03/the-center-builds-access-to-wellness-with-new-phar/