12 May Newly Designated FQHC Look-Alike Prism Health Meets Needs of LGBTQ+ Community
By Jonathan Frochtzwajg, Institutional Giving Officer
Prism Health is a newly designated Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike in southeast Portland that offers safe, welcoming, and knowledgeable primary and mental health care for the LGBTQ+ community and beyond.
LGBTQ+ people experience many health problems at a disproportionately high rate, from tobacco use, to breast cancer, to mental-health issues. At the same time, they are less likely than heterosexual and/or cisgender people to have a regular health care provider. One reason: More than half of lesbian, gay, and bisexual respondents to a national survey—and 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming respondents—said they had experienced at least one type of discrimination in healthcare, from being refused needed care to being blamed for their health status.
Prism responds to these injustices by providing LGBTQ+ people with a space where they can show up, be seen, and experience healing as their whole self. Every aspect of the health center, from the waiting room to the provider team, was designed by and for the LGBTQ+ community. (Services are available to all people, regardless of sexual or gender identity.) Prism opened in 2017 as the only nonprofit LGBTQ+ health center providing comprehensive primary care in the Pacific Northwest. Since then, more than 1,500 people have become patients—92% of whom identify with a sexual identity other than straight, and over a third of whom identify with a gender identity other than “man” or “woman.” Last year, the health center began offering mental health services, and a pharmacy will open on site this spring. Prism is a division of Cascade AIDS Project, and the health center hosts CAP’s low-barrier HIV/STI testing service four days a week.
Prism has always sought to serve the members of the LGBTQ+ community with the greatest needs. For example, the health center has offered a sliding fee scale since its opening. However, the financial benefits that come with our FQHC Look-Alike designation will provide us with critical stabilizing support to serve many more patients with low income and/or complex needs. By the end of 2021, we expect the number of patients at the health center to have doubled to nearly 3,000, with approximately 50% qualifying as low income.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Prism is continuing to provide almost all primary and mental health services remotely, delivering only essential services in person. Coronavirus testing is available for patients by appointment. We are also providing food and other support to our most vulnerable patients. For instance, Prism providers and staff have delivered food from our Oregon Food Bank-stocked pantry to patients experiencing food insecurity. A number of our patients experiencing housing insecurity had been bathing at gyms before the stay-at-home order closed those facilities, so we have delivered personal hygiene supplies to them. Prism employs a full-time Patient Services Navigator to connect patients with complex needs to resources. In a time when the services of FQHCs are needed more than ever, Prism Health is proud to join the OPCA community.