New initiative to expand gender-affirming care across Illinois

A new initiative aims to help organizations serving LGBTQ+ communities by expanding gender-affirming care across Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Human Services announced Monday that the new Transgender and Gender Diverse Wellness and Equity Program will provide organizations with comprehensive and medical care for transgender, gender-diverse and LGBTQ+ people.

“Transgender, gender-diverse, and LGBTQ+ communities deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and to receive care that affirms their identities,” Karen Reitan, president and CEO of the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago, said in a statement. “These are essential steps that help dismantle systemic discrimination, which has created inequitable access to healthcare. We are excited by the variety of work our partner organizations are doing in communities across the state.”

State health officials selected Reitan’s institute to lead and help equip organizations with services that include training and behavioral health support, employing health care navigation specialists, gender-affirming care training for staff and implementing strategies to expand medically and culturally appropriate gender-affirming care to their services.

The Center on Halsted, a Lake View facility that offers health services and outreach to the LGBTQ+ community, was one of 15 organizations chosen to participate in the program.

A spokesperson said the Center was proud to receive the grant.

“As the largest LGBTQ+ community center in the Midwest, the Center provides care and services to members of these communities, including individual and group therapy; surgical support letters; services to people at all stages of life including children and young people and their families and seniors; housing for young people and seniors, and much more. TGD populations have been underserved and face greater exposure to social determinants of health which this wonderful program helps to correct,” the spokesperson said.

Despite Illinois serving as a blue haven for those seeking gender-affirming care, Illinois officials said many LGBTQ+ adults avoid seeking care due to disrespect and discrimination from providers, and they hope this new initiative will address prejudices.

Lawmakers in 2019 approved legislation that directs coverage of gender-affirming surgeries for Medicaid members age 21 and older who are diagnosed with gender dysphoria.

And in 2023, legislators approved a measure that protects health care providers who provide gender-affirming care, and their patients, from legal attacks by neighboring states — and another that allows businesses to create multioccupancy gender-neutral bathrooms.

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