Oregon's first comprehensive LGBTQ primary care clinic opens its doors in Portland and patients from across the state are already making the trek to the brand-new facility to experience culturally affirming care.
Doctors visits can be nerve racking for many people. But, for those in the LGBTQ community there's sometimes an added element of anxiety. A feeling Ben Parisot says he's experienced most of his life.
"I've had bad experiences in the past with doctor's that either didn't understand things I was asking about, or were flat out judgmental about my requests or needs," said Parisot. "I've had doctors transfer me from other doctors before because they didn't want to deal with requests for STI screenings, or meds like Prep."
From the moment Parisot walked into Prism Health in southeast Portland, he knew that was all about to change.
"I've never gone to a doctor's office and been like, 'oh these are my people,' so it was nice to know that there was this common core amongst everyone here," Parisot added.
Prism Health is the latest extension of the Cascade Aids Projects and said to be the first facility of its kind in the entire state. One organizers built to address what they call longstanding disparities in the state's health care system.
"I think that the system of care for the LGBTQ community was fractured," said Executive Director Tyler TerMeer.
TerMeer is spearheading the efforts to change that.
"As an openly gay HIV positive man of color living in Portland, being involved in this project has been one of the most meaningful accolades of my career and in the CAP 30-plus year history," TerMeer said.
Prism Health opened back in may and now offers primary health care for the state's LGBTQ community, along with free onsite HIV and sexually transmitted infection testing. Soon, the plan is also to offer onsite mental health counseling services and an integrated pharmacy.
TerMeer says beyond that, they also wanted to make the facility feel like a safe space. So, they consulted with a group of trans women to integrate their ideas into the final design.
"People here are trained to understand LGBTQ health needs and culturally specific mental health care needs in the future. This is for a group of people that have faced hatred, fear and discrimination in the past and need a provider that understands the historical trauma those individuals may have faced," said TerMeer.
James McDonald is one of those trained providers. He's worked in the healthcare industry for 30-plus years and says he's encouraged by this step forward in inclusive care.
"I think it's a very important service and a very needed service. I had one patient that came a fairly long distance because in her hometown she felt she wasn't getting the care that she felt she deserved and needed," said Nurse Practitioner James McDonald.
That patient's story is one Parisot says he understands. But he left Prism health feeling encouraged he may never feel that way again.
"This was the first place I felt I could come and not explain parts about my health as a gay man to my doctor, and that we'd all be on same page from the beginning," said Parisot.
Prism Health says patients do not have to identify as LGBTQ to receive care, but services will focus on addressing the sensitive issues of sexual minorities and their families and friends.
For more information visit: https://prismhealth.org/
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