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Program seeks to help LGBTs with substance-abuse issues
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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Although the extent of substance-abuse disorders among the LGBT population hasn't been fully quantified, a number of studies indicate that the rates of substance abuse among the LGBT community are higher than the rest of the population.

According to Dr. Jason Trautman, Chicago Lakeshore Hospital (CLH) clinical coordinator for outpatient services, LGBT membership appears to correlate with increased risk of substance abuse. Trautman also noted that about 20 percent of the LGBT population in Chicago has substance abuse issues. A study conducted in 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows that about 9 percent of the general population has substance-abuse issues.

Joe Camper, director of Valeo (which provides comprehensive psychiatric and addiction-related treatment for LGBTQ individuals), noted that alcohol continues to be the most prevalent drug of choice among LGBT people. He also remarked that there appears to be an increase in heroin use among LGBT young adults. The use of crystal meth by the LGBT community is also high according to Camper.

According to Camper, some of the factors that could account for higher rates of substance abuse among the LGBT population include discrimination, abuse/bullying, prejudice, alienation and other adverse social events.

A number of federal, state and local organizations have created information guides, community action plans and treatment programs to assist LGBT people with substance abuse issues.

To assist clinicians and administrators SAMHSA has issued "A Provider's Introduction to Substance Abuse Treatment for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Individuals" that provides information about substance abuse treatment approaches that are sensitive to LGBT clients. The document also covers cultural, clinical, health, administrative, and legal issues as well as alliance building.

The City of Chicago also published an LGBT community action plan (a supplement to their Healthy Chicago health agenda) last summer to address the health needs of Chicago's LGBT community. The action plan consists of 22 strategies including data collection in electronic medical records, increase tobacco cessation efforts, and maintaining community task forces on LGBT substance abuse issues.

The Chicago Department of Public Health is also in the process of creating an LGBT Health Advisory Council comprised of 10-12 members. According to the press release, "they will advise city staff on the unique health needs of the LGBT community, provide a voice in the decisions that affect the LGBT community and serve as a liaison to partner organizations for continued implementation of Chicago's groundbreaking LGBT Community Action plan."

CLH has been assisting LGBT individuals with mental health and addiction-related issues for over 30 years with its Valeo program. Valeo means "I am well" in Latin.

"The idea of overall health and wellness is the focus of the program," said Camper. "CLH believes it is important to provide comprehensive behavioral health services to the LGBT community. We wanted to provide a safe, affirming environment where the members of our community could openly and honestly discuss issues, feelings and challenges."

According to their website, "The Valeo staff is comprised of well-trained, experienced gay and gay-sensitive behavioral health professionals from a wide variety of disciplines." Valeo provides behavioral health services to the LGBT community through its inpatient and intensive outpatient programs.

The impatient program has a dual diagnosis focus (mental health and addiction-related disorders) and is comprised of an LGBT dedicated 12-bed inpatient track unit on the general adult unit at the hospital. Medically supervised detoxification, substance dependence and abuse treatment and drug rehab are some of the treatments and services that the impatient program provides as well as other non-addiction related issues.

The Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) runs from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. "The Valeo IOP serves as a 'step down' from the inpatient level of care, or may provide additional support and treatment for those patients who need more than an individual therapist or clinician can provide," said Camper. Patients include those who transitioned from CLH Valeo inpatient program or were referred from traditional outpatient treatment programs from one of their community partners.

As clinical coordinator of outpatient services Trautman directly manages the Valeo IOP. He coordinates patient care, develops patient discharge plans, evaluates patients and facilitates psychotherapy groups.

In his role as director, Camper provides clinical oversight and works directly with the treatment team of clinicians to ensure that each patient gets the care and services that they need. He also does community outreach for health-care providers and community leaders and provides training that addresses LGBTQ behavioral health needs.

For an average person who seeks care at Valeo for substance abuse issues Camper said, "Each patient has a treatment plan developed to serve that person's specific clinical needs ... We provide groups/therapy/services to assist the patient in developing a strong recovery program with a comprehensive aftercare plan."

To determine which patients will enter the inpatient program or the IOP they undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a masters' prepared behavioral health clinician and a registered nurse. A psychiatrist is also consulted to determine the appropriate level and type of care.

"As an example, in terms of chemical dependency, persons who need a medically supervised detoxification, need an inpatient level of care," said Camper.

Valeo has partnered with an number of other LGBTQ organizations in Chicago over the past 10 years to coordinate a wide-array of services. They include the Center on Halsted, Howard Brown Health Center, Chicago House, and TPAN. "I believe this collaborative approach has greatly helped the members of our community to receive the help and services they need," said Camper.

Camper noted that he isn't "aware of another inpatient primary care behavioral health programs with a dual diagnosis focus, specifically dedicated to the LGBTQ community, in the country."

"If you are concerned for yourself or someone else you may come in at anytime for an assessment," said Camper. "Valeo at CLH has a 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year intake process at no charge. You do not have to make an appointment. Also, you may call CLH Valeo at 800-888-0560, if you have questions."

See for more information.

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