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Committee advances LGBT health resolution to city council
by Matt Simonette
2018-06-13

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Members of the City Council LGBT Caucus were among those on hand as the Council's Health and Environmental Protection Committee passed a resolution June 7 endorsing a comprehensive databook on LGBT health released in March by Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ).

The resolution—which Ald. Deb Mell ( 33rd Ward ), an LGBT Caucus member, introduced in April—will be voted on at the full council's June 27 meeting.

CDPH Deputy Commissioner Brian Richardson spoke about the development and implementation of the study, which stemmed from the city's Healthy Chicago 2.0 initiative. Previous data was largely compiled as part of HIV prevention and treatment efforts, he noted. But the new study offered a broader picture of the concerns and needs of Chicago's LGBT community, which the authors estimated to be about 146,000 people.

During the hearing, Ald. Tom Tunney ( 44th ) inquired about PrEP usage and smoking-cessation efforts, among other issues, while Ald. James Cappleman ( 46th ) spoke about the need for services, particularly mental health services, that should be offered by Federally Qualified Health Centers ( FQHC ).

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa ( 35th ) inquired about rising rates of non-HIV STDs in the report, and blasted the City for closing CDPH clinics and reducing the number of health investigators. Richardson countered, however, that the CDPH clinic clients are better served when folded into FQHCs such as those run by Howard Brown Health and University of Illinois at Chicago, and that non-HIV infection rates were on par for other locales across the country.

Richardson also noted that community members were more likely to engage with investigators through means such as social media or texting, requiring a smaller number of investigators. Ramirez-Rosa reminded him that many community members, such as persons experiencing homelessness or individuals struggling with addiction, might not have easy access to online resources.

Ald. Raymond Lopez ( 15th ) reminded the gathering that each City Council member is an "ambassador" of good health in the city, and noted that he makes male and female condoms available in his ward offices. Richardson added that Lopez was seemingly only one of four council members to do that. By that point in the hearing, in fact, only some members of the LGBT Caucus were the only Council members remaining.

"The notion that this is just an LGBT Caucus issue is a failure on our parts," Lopez said.

Among the advocates testifying about the databook were Howard Brown Health Manager of Policy & Advocacy Crispin Torres; Jerome Montgomery of Project VIDA; and Brave Space Alliance Director LaSaia Wade. Wade noted the comparative lack of space given over to Chicago transgender residents in the document, a point which Richardson acknowledged, noting that compiling such information is "an ongoing challenge."


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