In the 1980s, Americans became acutely aware of LGBT health care in America. The HIV/ AIDS epidemic opened eyes to the thousands who needed urgent medical treatment. Since then, research and cultural training has advanced the treatment of the LGBT people, and these services that can be found at Open Door Health, Rhode Island’s first LGBT-centered health clinic.
“Rhode Island is one of 13 states in the union that doesn’t have an LGBT health clinic that focuses on serving the LGBT population as a core function of its mission,” says Executive Director Dr. Amy Nunn. The medical director of the clinic, Dr. Philip Chan, echoes her remarks, saying that many times LGBT Rhode Islanders would go to Boston to receive care. Now, they can get the care they need in their home state.
The health center, according to Dr. Chan, has been almost two years in the making. The clinic will be run by its larger
parent organization, the Rhode Island Public Health Institute. Here, patients will have access to things like primary care, HIV/AIDS (and other sexually transmitted infections) testing, sexual health services, and mental health services. Dr. Nunn also mentions that the clinic will provide PrEP in 2020, a one-pill once-a-day, pre-exposure prophylaxis drug that helps prevent HIV contraction.
The center is open to everyone – LGBT and non-LGBT people alike – from all backgrounds, age groups, and socioeconomic statuses. The clinic is special because while they do accept insurance, no one will be denied services because of their inability to pay. “We think that services are important and we really want to offer a safe harbor for all people. We will bill whenever possible, but that will not be a prerequisite for receiving services,” says Dr. Nunn. At this time, she says the clinic is still working out the policies for those who are unable to pay.
Open Door Health is an important asset to the state not only because of the services it provides, but for the way that the staff will care for patients. Members of the LGBT community can face discrimination or be misgendered by a healthcare provider, but, says Dr. Chan, “All staff at Open Door Health will have experience working with the LGBT community, including using proper terms to identify people.” Dr. Nunn adds that along this vein, they will try to hire LGBT staff.
Continues Dr. Chan, “We are very excited about Open Door Health and plan to work with the community to ensure that we are serving people appropriately and treating patients in a manner that they feel comfortable.” Open Door Health will open late 2019 or January of 2020.