Philadelphia's LGBT health facility celebrated a $1.5-million investment at a press conference Tuesday.
The Mazzoni Center received its largest one-time gift back in November through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program. The funds will support Mazzoni Center’s purchase of a new building at 1328-38 Bainbridge St., where all services will be combined this summer. Its Washington West Project will still remain in the Gayborhood.
State Sen. Larry Farnese, who championed the RACP application in the Senate, and State Rep. Brian Sims, who publicly supported the grant request, were on hand to celebrate the milestone.
“I am really so so proud to stand here with my good friends and neighbors from the Mazzoni Center as well as my colleagues from the city and state government to announce this major investment in the Mazzoni Center,” Farnese said.
Farnese noted that the expansion is “an investment in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” He said the commitment will allow Mazzoni to provide intensive outpatient programs, increased space for community meetings and an overall service expansion.
“It’s more apparent more than ever how essential and how absolutely crucial it is to be a vocal ally and support not only policies but also investments that will grow a network of safe, reliable and understanding havens where services can be obtained in this community,” Farnese said.
Sims commended the Mazzoni staffers whose work connects LGBT people with needed services, which he noted is especially important for a state that still does not offer statewide LGBT nondiscrimination protections.
“In most parts of Pennsylvania, the conversations that we’re having right now could get us thrown out of this building, could get us thrown out of this municipality,” Sims said. “The hard work that so many of those people do could get them fired from their jobs in other parts of this state and yet, they come to work every single day at the Mazzoni Center.”
Mazzoni Center CEO Nurit Shein said that since the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, the number of uninsured patients the center serves has gone down. However, the future of the act is unclear under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.
“I don’t know what the next year holds for us, so being able to expand from 13 exam rooms to 20-some exam rooms means a lot to the people we are going to see in the next few years,” Shein said.
Another speaker at the press conference was Michael Tambon, a Mazzoni Center patient. Tambon was diagnosed with HIV on Jan. 23, 2012 and said he was scared and did not know where to go for help. Shortly after his diagnosis, Tambon heard about Mazzoni Center’s HIV support-group meetings.
“I realized that I wasn’t alone in this process and that there’s affordable care for me offered by the Mazzoni Center,” Tambon said.
Tambon found a doctor he felt comfortable with and discussed treatment options. Now, Tambon is on medication, healthy and his HIV status is undetectable.
“This new building at Broad and Bainbridge is so important because all of these services can now be found under one roof,” Tambon said. “This makes it more convenient for over 35,000 individuals to rely on Mazzoni Center and their services. I would like to thank the state of Pennsylvania for your generous donation, which helps make this building possible.”
Shein called it “a dream come true” to have all of Mazzoni’s services under one roof.
“Keep talking to us and keep asking questions,” Shein said. “We are going to be here for many years to come.”