The Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset will expand its PROUD Family Health center this summer to serve more LGBTQ patients in New Jersey by moving into a bigger space, adding two new staff members and extending clinic hours.
“We opened PROUD Family Health because we recognized that the healthcare needs of the community were not being met and, in many cases, LGBTQIA individuals were traveling outside New Jersey for their medical care,” said hospital president Tony Cava.
The expansion, with a budget of $100,000, will include a new space for the center in a dedicated office suite across the hall from its current location on the hospital’s campus. The center is currently open Mondays 6-9 p.m. but will expand to offer appointments three full days a week. In addition, the hospital is hiring an advanced-practice nurse for the center and a patient navigator who will set appointments, guide patients to the appropriate care and conduct community outreach and health education. An APN on staff allows more patients to be seen at the center, which Cava said was the primary reason behind the expansion.
“We’ve grown quickly in terms of the number of patients we’re seeing and we currently can’t meet the needs of our community. We anticipated rapid growth but not at the level we’re seeing and, unfortunately, patients are being delayed with being seen and has resulted in those patients seeking treatment elsewhere,” he said.
The hospital is the first in the state to offer specialized primary-healthhcare services for the LGBTQ community. PROUD Family Health, which opened in January 2017 in the hospital’s Somerset Family Practice, “provides services tailored to meet the healthcare needs of LGBTQ patients in a safe, supportive environment,” Cava said. Services include primary medical care for children and adults, hormone therapy and monitoring, HIV care, health education, counseling, support groups and referrals for specialty services such as behavioral health.
New Jersey Commissioner of Health Shereef Elnahal visited the center June 4, meeting with patients and care providers.
“It was important to me to visit the hospital and learn about the importance of delivering unbiased, compassionate and clinically appropriate services to the LGBT community,” Elnahal said in a statement after the visit. “For far too long, LGBT health — especially the unique healthcare needs of our transgender residents — has been an afterthought in the healthcare community. The services provided at the PROUD Family Health are an example worthy of replicating.”