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Network update: staying healthy longer

I’m in Sacramento, where we held the first ever briefing at the capitol about LGBT health. Many weeks of planning with the Health Network member organizations went into putting this event together. Our goal was to raise awareness about LGBT health and social service needs for state legislators and state officials. Based on the standing-room-only attendance in the hearing room, I think we were successful in drawing more attention to our community’s health. Our panel of presenters did a fantastic job of highlighting key data and program information about the unique healthcare and social service needs of LGBT Californians.

The key take-away for me was that eliminating health inequities requires investment in LGBT specific research, programs and community organizations in order to prevent greater problems for individuals, families and communities. Doing so will not only enhance the health of California but it will save money by reducing the long term costs of services.

I was pleased that the briefing drew policymakers like Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, who were interested in meeting with experts on LGBT health and with service providers. It’s critical to have conversations with decision-makers about topics like aging issues, mental health, family issues, safe schools, access to culturally competent care and the continued threat of budget cuts. Of course, this day couldn’t have happened without the support of the LGBT Legislative Caucus, chaired by Sen. Mark Leno.

I think one of the most exciting outcomes was my email box full of notes from legislative offices and state agencies who are asking for input from our Network about LGBT health and human service needs. They’re starting to listen!

Hopefully this is the first part of a fruitful statewide conversation on the state of our community’s health. If we keep organizing together and keep our network strong, all this hard work will pay off, and we’ll have a healthier California.

The California LGBT Health and Human Services Network is a statewide coalition composed of LGBT and allied organizations that provide health and human services to LGBT Californians and their families. To learn more about the network and its members, please visit www.eqcai.org/health/about.