Pennsylvania’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will convene an LGBTQI workgroup to assist the agency in addressing mental-health disparities faced by the state’s sexual-minority communities.
The Keystone Pride Recovery Initiative was launched in December 2008 with the formation of an initial workgroup — comprised of about 25 LGBT leaders, researchers and health specialists — who examined issues of access to, and inclusion in, behavioral-health services that LGBT clients face.
The effort, the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, received $40,000 from the Department of Public Welfare, coupled with funding from The Gill Foundation.
The KPRI workgroup presented its findings and recommendations to OMHSAS in July, and the new group will oversee the implementation of those proposals.
Mark Davis, co-chair of the original workgroup and president of LGBT mental-health organization Pink & Blues, said 48 individuals have so far applied to join the group and applications are still being taken.
Davis said the effort is an important step in the mental-health field.
“It’s pretty revolutionary for a state department like this to focus on LGBT health,” he said. “It’s important for our communities to know that these initiatives exist.”
The initial KPRI workgroup recommended several “priority actions” to be completed over the next few years, including a nondiscrimination policy covering sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; a policy opposing conversion therapy; a services care policy; a training program for care providers; and data-collection procedures.
The second workgroup will provide “advice, encouragement and people-power” to OMHSAS to implement the proposals.
The group, which will attend six-12 regional stakeholder meetings to raise awareness about KPRI, will create an implementation strategy and a program for the proposed training sessions, and draft the policy revisions.
Davis said organizers of the group, set to begin meeting next month, are looking for expanded diversity on the new committee — focusing specifically on youth, people of color and transgender individuals, as well as representatives from all regions in the state.