APLA-vert-photos-web72An amazing resource is right here in Long Beach on the St. Mary Medical Center campus, thanks to APLA Health and its Long Beach Health Center… a 7,000 square foot facility providing free and low-cost services, focusing on care to LGBTQ individuals. Services are available on a sliding-fee scale and include: primary medical care, dental, behavioral health care services, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) counseling and management, HIV testing and STD screening and treatment, and vaccinations.

The Long Beach Health Center is a federally qualified health center funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. Originally opened with limited primary medical care and PrEP services, the Long Beach Health Center quickly grew with adding space and services. “Culturally competent health care is not a luxury. All individuals should have access to services that keep them healthy and providers who understand them,” APLA Health CEO Craig E. Thompson says. “Long Beach Health Center is designed to address the specific needs of LGBTQ individuals… and we’re proud to be a part of the strong community network in Long Beach and ensure people can comfortably access care they need.”

Primary Medical Care is a unique offering to the LGBTQ community. Miguel Gutierrez, Director of Health Center Operations, Long Beach and South Los Angeles County told GED Magazine, “The community has lacked a primary care facility that has services tailored to the LGBTQ community and resources for persons that are low-income. The Long Beach Health Center focuses on adults and has staff that is both representative of the community we serve and have the skills and experience to be able to offer comprehensive services. We are also unique in that we have medical care, behavioral health, dental services, and prevention programs at one location, making access and coordination between each smoother.”

Rising fees can often be a barrier to care. The Long Beach Health Center is fortunate to have professionals to help patients through the process. “We have enrollment and navigation specialists who help our patients address those issues through the use of county programs for free STD testing, county programs, general primary care-screening programs for uninsured persons with low incomes, and pharmaceutical company patient assistance programs (like one offered by Gilead for co-pays and people who are uninsured seeking PrEP), says Gutierrez. “Additionally, as a federally qualified health center, we offer a very low sliding scale fee for people seeking services who are not covered by our contracted programs or health insurance.”

There is a high demand for behavioral health services, and the Long Beach Health Center has two therapists on site, including one who is a Spanish speaker. Gutierrez explains, “While more services are needed in Long Beach, we are fortunate to collaborate with other organizations providing therapy services to coordinate referrals and form a stronger network, including the CSULB Trauma Recovery Center and The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.”

Over the last year, organizations including specialty clinics, social service providers, and educational institutions have been instrumental in helping to build the Health Center’s volume, and, according to Gutierrez, have grown on average 10% per month since opening. “We are very mindful of the need to pace our quality with our growth, so we continue to refine our health programs based on the needs of the region. We are also seeking talented and outgoing individuals to work at our health center as we look into expanding hours to evenings and weekends to keep up with demand,” Gutierrez says.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) selected APLA Health as one of only seven organizations nationwide to receive a $1.9 million grant to establish a new HIV prevention program focusing on young transgender people of color, ages 18-29, and their partners. APLA Health is uniquely positioned to create and implement the new HIV prevention program, titled Trans Connections. Aligned with the “National HIV/AIDS Strategy,” the CDC’s “High-Impact HIV Prevention” approach, and the “L.A. Comprehensive HIV Plan,” Trans Connections focuses on South Los Angeles and Long Beach and works to reduce new HIV infections and increase access to medical care among young transgender people of color and their partners. “This grant is a blessing for our community,” The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach’s Executive Director Porter Gilberg says. “We are thrilled to partner with APLA Health to collectively serve one of the most under-resourced communities in Long Beach.”

Visit aplahealth.org    562-247-7740


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