It’s the Season to Speak Out
It seems to be advisory council season, all over we’re hearing of federal health advisory councils that are having public meetings or calling for new members. We try tell people about these meetings so they can attend or comment, if you’re not getting the news, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get you in the loop.
So a few weeks ago the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration had an open advisory council meeting and I went down to try to make a public comment about LGBT health. Below is the transcript of my comments, and wait for it, because you’ll be happy to hear the news of one change that’s already occurred!
Note: The SAMHSA Adminstrator, Ms. Pamela Hyde, invited me to respond to a comment about collaborations between SAMHSA and other tobacco groups, then I went on to make my planned comments.
WELL, FIRST OF ALL. I KNOW THE AMERICAN LEGACY FOUNDATION WANTS TO MEET WITH SAMHSA. I WANT TO BRING A MESSAGE THAT CHERYL HEALTON FROM AMERICAN LEGACY WOULD LOVE TO SIT DOWN WITH SAMHSA AND THE OTHER MAINSTREAM TOBACCO CONTROL AGENCIES WOULD LOVE TO DO THE SAME. I ALSO KNOW CDC IS ALWAYS CRYING FOR MORE COLLABORATION WITH SAMSHA. THE ISSUES OF TOBACCO AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE ARE SO CLOSE, CDC WOULD LOVE TO DO MUCH TIGHTER COORDINATING, AND PLANNING AS WELL. SO I THINK THERE’S ROOM FOR A LOT OF GROWTH IN TOBACCO COLLABORATIONS.
TO ADD ON… ONE OF THE THINGS I WAS GOING TO SAY TO THIS GROUP AND OTHER PEOPLE HERE. FIRST OF ALL, I WORK WITH THE CDC TOBACCO DISPARITY NETWORK SO I DO A LOT OF TRAINING WITH STATE PEOPLE. I WORK WITH A LOT OF STATE DEPARTMENTS OF HEALTH. WE TRY TO GIVE THEM RESOURCES TO DO BETTER WORK WITH TOBACCO. AND AS I WAS THINKING OF COMING HERE, I REALIZED THAT SOMETHING JUST HAPPENED THAT CRYSTALLIZED WHAT I WANTED TO SAY. IT WAS SAD NEWS TO HEAR THAT LAST WEEK THERE WAS A 13-YEAR-OLD IN TEXAS WHO, AFTER BEING SO DESPERATELY BULLIED AT SCHOOL, AND THE SCHOOL COMPLETELY IGNORING THE COMPLAINTS OF THE PARENTS THAT HE WAS BEING BULLIED, SO FINALLY AFTER GETTING KICKED DOWN THE STAIRS LAST WEEK AND COMING OUT AS GAY… HE KILLED HIMSELF. SADLY, THIS IS NOT AN UNCOMMON PHENOMENON. IT’S THE KIND OF THING THAT WE REALLY DESPAIR OF THINKING EXISTS IN OUR COUNTRY. UNFORTUNATELY IT’S NOT UNCOMMON. I KNOW THAT LAST YEAR THERE WERE 22 PEOPLE KILLED FOR BEING LGBT IN THIS COUNTRY*. MOST ALL OF THEM WERE TRANSGENDER PEOPLE. I KNOW AFTER DOING MY DISSERTATION ON TRANSGENDER HEALTH, I KNOW THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO AT THE AGE OF 12 WERE OUT ON THE STREETS BECAUSE THEIR HOME LIFE AND THEIR SCHOOL LIFE WAS SO HOSTILE. THEY HAD NO SAFETY NET. AND THIS, OF COURSE, IS RELATED TO A CASCADE OF OTHER PROBLEMS, ACCESS TO CARE PROBLEMS, AND OF COURSE WHENEVER THERE’S EXTREME DISCRIMINATION, MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE THAT COMPLETELY FALLS OUT OF THAT.
I WANT TO SAY THAT SAMHSA HAS TAKEN GREAT STEPS TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE, THEY ARE LEADING FEDERAL AGENCIES BY DEVELOPING AN LGBT CULTURAL COMPETENCY TRAINING, THEY ALSO HAVE AN LGBT WEBSITE UP, THEN IT WENT DOWN, HOPEFULLY IT’S UP AGAIN. BUT AS SOMEONE WHO TRAINS THE STATES, WE JUST GOT BACK FROM NORTH DAKOTA WHERE WE WERE TRAINING A LOT OF FOLK, I HAVE TO TELL YOU IT’S NOT ENOUGH. PART OF THE REASON IS, BECAUSE IT’S STILL OPTIONAL.
WHILE IT’S NOT ENOUGH – THE GOOD NEWS IS SAMHSA DOES FUND THE LARGEST FIELD TEAM OF ANYBODY IN THE COUNTRY. THAT MEANS CHANGES HERE CAN CASCADE BEAUTIFULLY. I WANT TO SAY I HEARD YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT DATA EARLIER. I DON’T WANT TO WAIT FOR DATA. I WANT TO SUGGEST A COUPLE THINGS THAT WOULD HELP RIGHT NOW.
FIRST OF ALL MAKE THE LGBT CULTURAL COMPETENCY TRAINING MANDATORY. WE KNOW WHAT THE PEOPLE IN THE FIELD WANT, IT’S NOT JUST TRAINING BUT STRATEGIES FOR THEIR SPECIFIC POSITION. THAT’S WHAT THEY EAT UP AND ARE REALLY INTERESTED IN USING AND PUTTING IN PLACE.
SECOND OF ALL, LOOK AT ADMINISTRATION FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. THEY’RE DOING GROUNDBREAKING WORK ON HOW TO MAKE SURE THEIR FUNDEES, ALL OF THIS MONEY THAT FLOWS FROM HERE TO THE LOCAL COMMUNITIES, COMES WITH A PLAN ON HOW THE FUNDEES INTEGRATE LGBT DISPARITIES INTO IT.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, TRY TO CONSIDER HOW TO MAKE THIS A ROUTINE PART OF THE FULL RANGE OF SAMHSA’S SERVICES. FOR EXAMPLE, LOOK WHAT WE SAW ON THE MENTAL HEALTH SLIDES. HOW SUICIDE WAS A PRIORITY, AND LGBT’S HAVE ASTRONIMICAL RATES OF SUICIDE, YET WE’RE NOT ONE OF THE TARGET POPULATIONS. SO I JUST PLEASE ENCOURAGE YOU TO THINK ABOUT HOW IN THE WHOLE RANGE OF SAMHSA’S SERVICES LGBT INCLUSION CAN BE A ROUTINE AND NOT OPTIONAL PART OF THE WORK, BECAUSE FOR PEOPLE LIKE ASHER BROWN, WE’VE GOT TO MOVE AS FAST AS WE CAN. THANK YOU.
* Big thanks to @lovefortified and @Arizona_Abby from Twitter, who were shooting me details about the National Trans Day of Remembrance murder statistics as I was in the audience preparing my comments!
(Amusing note: somehow I squeezed all this into 3 min flat, at times I sound like I was giving the legal disclaimers for a new medicine.)
Now the news!
Just saw the newest iteration of the SAMHSA strategic plan and guess what? The new strategic plan draft has the language changed!
“SAMHSA Strategic Initiative on Preventing Substance Abuse and Mental Illness
Goal 1.3: Prevent suicides and attempted suicides among populations at high risk, especially military families, youth, and American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Objective 1.3.1: Improve mental, emotional, and behavioral health and well-being among military families, youth, and American Indians and Alaska Natives with a focus on ethnic minority and LGBT youth.”