This June, Unite Us is recognizing Pride Month by focusing on ways community-based organizations (CBOs) can support LGBTQ+ community members.
In our communities, we each play a role in creating spaces where all feel welcome and safe, including LGBTQ+ individuals. With safe access to health and social care, LGBTQ+ individuals can live happier, healthier lives.
What Health Disparities Do LGBTQ+ Individuals Face?
LGBTQ+ individuals experience specific health disparities that affect their physical and mental well-being. In spite of the advancements made, individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ still face more unfavorable health consequences compared to their heterosexual peers. Factors such as limited access to health insurance, increased stress caused by systematic harassment and discrimination, and a lack of understanding and sensitivity within the healthcare system contribute to higher risks of cancer, mental disorders, and other illnesses. Research shows:
- LGBTQ+ populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.
- LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience homelessness.
- LGBTQ+ youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide.
Why Is LGBTQ+ Health Important?
By working together to eliminate LGBTQ+ health disparities, we can reduce disease transmission and progression, improve physical and mental well-being, and increase longevity in our communities. A history of exclusion from traditional health and social services systems exacerbates the health challenges LGBTQ+ individuals face, particularly for teens and young adults.
Creating Safe Spaces for All
Creating safe spaces is a building block for healthy, thriving communities. Rainbow Labs, a Los Angeles-based CBO in the Unite Us network, is ensuring the next generation of LGBTQ+ youth finds their community, peers, and safe spaces earlier on while gaining a sense of empowerment to propel them into bright futures.
“A lot of our youth we interact with are foster youth, and they don’t know where they’re going to eat at night. There are a lot of resources, but a lot of the kids don’t feel safe. How do we create safe spaces for our young people at Rainbow Labs? We build relationships and train everybody else around our youth to say we can be a resource. We can be a referral place. We don’t have all the answers, but we can start,” says Luis Vasquez, Founder and Executive Director of Rainbow Labs.
The key to connecting the Rainbow Labs youth to services in the Los Angeles area is partnering through Unite Us to create critical linkages, like with area schools and their associated programs.
“Our mentors know the systemic challenges that our kids are facing before they even show up to Rainbow Labs, like childhood trauma and basic human needs; and when it comes up, how can we refer them out to the right services?” says Jacob Toups, Founder of Rainbow Labs. “The benefit is in our collaborative partnerships because we’ve partnered with after-school agencies that also have connections or provide food directly to kids. We already have a built-in support network because they’re being referred out.”
Through Unite Us, Rainbow Labs securely receives referrals from county agencies (like the LA County Department of Children and Family Services) and works with a network of trusted organizations to connect LGBTQ+ youth with community resources that address basic needs: “The reality is we can’t really serve kids who don’t have their basic human needs met. That’s why we partner with organizations that already have that built in. We come in and say, ‘Let us take the next step and have a conversation around identity.’”
Expand Your Reach Through a Network of Coordinated Care
Community-based organizations have the opportunity to support LGBTQ+ individuals through Unite Us’ nationwide coordinated care network. In Unite Us’ ever-growing, national network, there’s a vast array of network partners offering programs that specialize in helping the LGBTQ+ population, and more partners join the network every day.
Like Rainbow Labs shows, joining a network of coordinated care provides more opportunities for your LGBTQ+ clients or patients to access care that meets their needs. Through the Unite Us network, you can:
- Refer individuals to shelters where they will be safely housed according to their gender identity.
- Facilitate connections to peer support groups for parents, families, and friends.
- Help individuals find organizations that provide LGBTQ+-affirming behavioral health services.
- Help individuals get a state ID and other legal documents to match their true gender identity.
- Guide families to healthcare providers with experience serving the LGBTQ+ community.
- Connect individuals with employment or legal services at inclusive and LGBTQ+-affirming organizations.
Learn how Unite Us can help your organization to expand its impact for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
About Unite Us
Unite Us is the nation’s leading software company bringing sectors together to improve the health and well-being of communities. We drive the collaboration to identify, deliver, and pay for services that impact whole-person health. Through Unite Us’ national network and software, community-based organizations, government agencies, and healthcare organizations are all connected to better collaborate to meet the needs of the individuals in their communities.