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Panel Calls For Responsiveness and Inclusivity: Key Ingredients in Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Culturally competent health care for LGBTQ+ youth must include responsiveness and inclusivity, recognizing that every young person is unique so that care is based on the needs of the individual youth, a group of experts said at a recent roundtable hosted by Blue Shield of California Promise Health Plan.

Blue Shield of California’s director of behavioral health David W. Bond moderated the virtual panel last week that included:

  • Jicara Collins, Public Health Program Manager, Clinic Health Education Team, Contra Costa County Health Services School-Based Clinic Program
  • Gigi Crowder, NAMI Contra Costa Executive Director 
  • Kanwarpal Dahliwal, RYSE Center Co-founder and Associate Director
  • Kiku Johnson, Rainbow Community Center Executive Director 
  • Gerold Loenicker, Program Chief, Child & Adolescent Mental Health, Contra Costa Behavioral Health Services
  • Lynn Mackey, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Contra Costa County Office of Education 

The panel began with an emphasis by Crowder on the importance of not just competent care, but responsive and inclusive health care for the LGBTQ+ youth community. The panelists agreed, adding the importance of recognizing that every young person is different, and providers should adapt their response based on the needs of the individual. 

The panel shared ideas on how to teach community stakeholders and providers to exhibit greater compassion toward LGBTQ+ youth and how to create behavioral change within education, health care and faith communities that result in better support and care for them.

“What we know and what we hear from young people is that they find hope and affirmation in faith and it is our job to uphold what works for them,” Dhaliwal said.

When discussing the impact of the educational system on young people, Johnson noted that in addition to teaching students reading, writing and arithmetic, “we need to add … restorative healing and relationships. These are central to all that we are doing in this space and establishing these sustainable learning pathways will take more investment.” 

Collins agreed: “We need to make sure that not only are the health educators and providers competent in providing care to LGBTQ+ youth, but that other staff that interact with our youth receive that training, too.”

The panel discussion is just one step in an ongoing effort to shed light on this important topic and to further the conversation about how providers, community leaders and stakeholders can ensure that LGBTQ+ youth have continued and enhanced access to the care they need in order to flourish. 

Blue Shield is also doing its part to help remove barriers and prioritize education and mental health for California’s LGBTQ+ youth. In 2019, the nonprofit health plan launched its BlueSky youth mental health initiative, a statewide multi-year effort to enhance access to, awareness of and advocacy for youth mental health supports. 

Blue Shield also has provided grants to the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center for youth programming and a $4,000 community investment in the Rainbow Community Center of Contra Costa to support Transition Age Youth’s telehealth and online education services. Blue Shield’s BlueSky also offers resources online to support LGBTQ+ youth and their families, including:  

Blue Shield of California has a long-standing commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion that includes: 

  • Championing diversity, equity and inclusion in its workforce and workplace.
  • Promoting health equity by supporting the state of California’s equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Increasing our vendor relationships with businesses owned by women and people of color through our supplier diversity program.
  • Advocating for social justice by investing in communities where its employees live and work.

Through continued conversations, investments and collaborations with community leaders, Blue Shield continues to be part of the solution in providing resources that result in inclusive and responsive health care for all Californians including the state’s LGBTQ+ youth.

The recording of the panel discussion is available online at this link.