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"Integrated Health Cooperative aims to provide ‘whole health’ options to marginalized communities"

on Thursday, 01 May 2014. Posted in Front Page Headline, Media Updates

Out and About Nashville

by James Grady

...

Indeed, at this point the clinic cannot possibly be sustained completely by offering transgender services. The IHC’s model will instead be to reach out to other groups facing healthcare disparities. In addition to alcohol and drug treatment services, particularly for those with associated mental health disorders, the clinic’s other major focus is the kink community.

A general lack of understanding of the kink community and their culture creates a lack of access in subtle ways. Billy described a common situation that illustrates this: “people in the kink culture tell us that people don’t take them or their nontraditional relationships seriously. For instance, I’ve had people tell me about being treated coldly, or even laughed at, by their doctors when they asked for a reference to counseling when they get uncollared by their partner.”

IHC’s focus on varied, and sometimes non-overlapping, marginalized communities requires maintaining the comfort and sense of security of, and a safe and welcoming environment for, each group. Billy explains, “We’ll be dividing up days so that our days of providing drug and alcohol treatment services won’t overlap with our services to transgender or kink services. It is essential that we create a place for individuals who experience healthcare disparities to come and feel accepted, not just tolerated.”

Given the centrality of the transgender community to their mission though, IHC will provide a broader range of services to the transgender community than one might normally consider basic healthcare. For instance, as soon as salon chairs can be secured, volunteers are ready to provide salon services to transgender individuals. Billy explains that this sort of care is, however, part of whole health: “transgender individuals encounter what some people call transwhisperers, people at supposedly transaware places where people are pointing you out and outing you, intentionally or not.” Psychologically this creates a resistance in transgender people from seeking services that enhance their feeling of well-being, while also stoking psychological issues which are already difficult for the individuals.

The goal of IHC is to expand such services and create a place that supports whole health, physical and mental while building the IHC into an LGBTQI health center focused on whole health and wellness.

The next major step in the work of IHC is establishing a non-profit to undertake the healthcare policy aspect of the transgender community by increasing awareness, organizing advocacy, and legislative initiatives. As the clinic builds and the non-profit develops, they will also support the development of education outreach initiatives, such as offering sensitivity training for clinics and doctors, as well as other providers, to help them become more aware of and receptive to the needs of diverse communities. ...

 

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