The Humbolt Health Council, formed by Transgender Law Center’s Project HEALTH, has successfully helped in establishing a transgender health clinic by collaborating with allies at Open Door Community Health Centers

Clinician, David Horwitz, explained how it all happened:

“Open Door was contacted by Project HEALTH and some of the local trans activists here who felt like there wasn’t adequate trans sensitive health care in Humbolt County, and they said people were going to San Francisco for care. They wanted to see if our clinic was interested in trying to provide better care up here. I had some limited experience with trans patients through my HIV work so I didn’t feel terribly confident, but I was interested in trying to become more competent.

So I said sure, I’d love to work with trans people and be trained to do a better job. Project HEALTH sent some trainers to meet with all of the different levels of clinic staff, including receptionists, medical assistants, everyone – and they did ‘trans 101’ trainings and sat down with us to look at our systems to see how they could be improved.

I also visited Lyon Martin Health Services in San Francisco to shadow providers there, and went to some conferences including the UCSF Trans Health Conference, so that I could get more comfortable. Finally, I made arrangements to have some ongoing video and email consultations with clinicians at Lyon Martin.

Soon we announced that we were open for business. We started a once a month trans clinic and did some community publicity, largely through the local health council, but also with some flyering at health fairs. We’re getting excellent response from the community. I see several new trans patients every month.

I certainly still consider myself to be on the learning curve of trans health, but one of the things I’ve learned is that everyone is on the learning curve because there currently isn’t enough long term data on trans health. For me personally, this has been a positive learning experience, and I enjoy very much working with trans patients here. By having a dedicated trans clinic and having staff trainings, I think that we really have been able to improve the quality of the health care and also the perceived barriers to care. But, we have a ways to go.

We still have a lot of frustrations with our medical record systems and some of the limitations, but I think we have a committment to try to make it better. Things like appointment schedules the ‘insurance card name’ prints out, we’ve had to come up with workarounds so that we can call patients by their preferred name curing their visit. We continue to have meetings and talk about things that we are doing right and things we are doing wrong, and how we can make it better.”

Are you interested in organizing for better health care in your community? Check out our revised guide, Organizing for Transgender Health Care: A Guide for Community Clinic Organizing and Advocacy.