by Scout, Ph.D. Director, Network for LGBT Health Equity At The Fenway Institute
A few years ago I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the first ever LGBT pride event for the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA aka sam-suh). Now, I had the pleasure to be one of the five speakers invited to their first ever LGBT Health Awareness Week event yesterday: Coming Out for Health, A Roundtable for Federal Staff about the Top Behavioral Health Issues for LGBT Populations.
About 35 federal officials gathering around the table as more watched to hear about and discuss the behavioral health issues for our communities. Hutson led us off, then myself, Amy Andre, D Magrini, and Dr. Stephen Forsell all gave short reviews of T/B/L/G behavioral health challenges respectively.
I was impressed with the officials gathered around the table, these were not the usual faces who are working on this all the time. HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration) had a strong showing, Secty. Sebelius’ office was represented, and for most of the event the heads of all three SAMHSA centers were participating (substance abuse treatment, substance abuse prevention, and mental health).
One of the most compelling moments was as the openly lesbian head of SAMHSA, Pam Hyde, kicked it off. She talked about that earlier LGBT pride event, and how after it one staffer emailed her to say he’d actually been moved to tears by the event. Only a year earlier he had been pleading with staff to please address LGBT health … and now to have it included as part of an agency celebration was a profound shift. Well, SAMHSA has really done that shift justice, they continue to be HHS leaders in several LGBT activity areas, a few of which I want to showcase as soon as I can in their own blog posts.
Yesterday myself and the other speakers upped the bar even more, challenging HHS staff to dig deeper, unbundle LGBT as a unit and get to know the distinct challenges of the diverse communities represented by those mere four letters. They were all ears, and if recent history is any judge, up to the challenge.
Thanks very much to the three co-chairs of SAMHSA’s Sexual and Gender Minority Special Interest Group, Ed Craft, Michelle Carnes, and Alexander Camacho, for making this event happen. I know they worked for months behind the scenes to pull all the pieces together. Great job.
p.s. Update — see this great HuffPo piece on it by one of the other presenters, Amy Andre: Federal Focus on Bi and Trans Health.