New Developments from HHS! Visitation Rights & Grant for LGBT Health

by Emilia Dunham

Program Associate


Two exciting developments for LGBT health were announced today we’re so happy to report!


The first announcement came from the Department of Health and Human Services’  Secretary Kathleen Sebelius issuing new enforcement of hospital visitation rights which explicitly protect same-sex partners. Basically all hospitals and health centers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid (which is like most of them) must grant patients the right to choose their visitors, which includes a same-sex domestic partner.

According to HRC Backstory:

“The guidance issued today is also intended to make it easier for family members, including a same-sex domestic partner, to make informed care decisions for loved ones who have become incapacitated.”

This announcement comes from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius with explicit support for same-sex

Today's LGBT hero, HHS Secty K. Sebelius

couples, as she states (quoting from

“Couples take a vow to be with each other in sickness and in health and it is unacceptable that, in the past, some same-sex partners were denied the right to visit their loved ones in times of need. We are releasing guidance for enforcing new rules that give all patients, including those with same-sex partners, the right to choose who can visit them in the hospital as well as enhancing existing guidance regarding the right to choose who will help make medical decisions on their behalf.”


Another fantastic development concerns the parent organization of this Network: Fenway Health.  According to the Advocate:

“A $248,000 grant tothe Fenway Institute, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (a division of HHS), will fund creation of a national training and technical assistance center for LGBT health issues.”

Per the HRSA press release, Fenway will use the grant for the following purposes:

  • Recruit leading experts in LGBT health led seminars and provide consultation to health center staff
  • Develop curricula specifically targeted to LGBT populations
  • Work closely with state primary care associations to maximize the geographic reach of the project
So remember when we told you how the government was committed to LGBT research and data collection and the reasons why it’s important? Here’s part of how that is going to happen!

Published by Emilia Dunham, MPP, MBA

Emilia Dunham is currently a Project Manager at MassHealth/Department of Public Health, and formerly the Project Manager of the Life Skills project at The Fenway Institute, an HIV intervention study for young transgender women. Emilia worked at Fenway for 7 years, first as a Quality Control and Regulatory Assistant mainly involved with biomedical HIV prevention trials, before serving as the Program Associate for The Network for LGBT Health Equity, a network instrumental in many national LGBT health policy improvements. She is also involved with the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, serving as a Steering Committee member and the Policy Committee Co-Chair, an organization largely responsible for the recent passage of the Trans Rights Bill. Additionally she serves as a member of the Massachusetts Commission on Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth, Co-Chair of the Recommendations Committee. Emilia received a Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University. There she served as President of the LGBTQ student group where she planned programs such as Pride Week, Transgender Day of Remembrance, and AIDS Week. In addition, she advocated for LGBTQ inclusive policies and programming on campus such as a Gender Neutral Housing program, an LGBTQ Center and the expansion of Women’s Studies to Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. Emilia recently earned a Master of Public Policy and Master of Business Administration in health policy and management from the Brandeis Heller School School for Social Policy and Management.

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