Many queer people seeking non-urgent medical assistance are uncomfortable discussing their specific needs with staff at our municipal sexual health centres.
Greg Crowe says he prefers the Centretown Community Health Centre (CCHC) because he is able to speak frankly about his sexual history. Crowe utilizes STI testing services at CCHC’s Gay Zone and says staff are always friendly and helpful.
“It is nice to be able to go to a health centre where you can discuss your sexual health in a way where you don’t have to worry about any judgment,” Crowe says.
Serving Ottawa’s downtown core since 1969, CCHC has evolved into a multifaceted centre with a strong focus on queer support services.
In August, the Association of Ontario Health Centres awarded CCHC with the Health Equity Award for its work pushing the queer health agenda forward through service and program delivery. In May, United Way Ottawa awarded the Ottawa Senior Pride Network (OSPN), a CCHC program, with the Community Builder Award for its steadfast support of queer seniors.
Board president Jeff Morrison says he hopes the award brings more visibility to CCHC because many queer Ottawans are not aware of the centre’s tailored services.
“For the GLBT community, Centretown is perhaps a bit of a hidden gem,” Morrison says.
In addition to Gay Zone, which is open Thursdays from 5 to 8pm and provides free STI and HIV testing, CCHC hosts a GLBTTQ youth group, presents a variety of programs for seniors and offers mental health and addiction counselling.
Morrison is currently the director of government relations for the Canadian Pharmacists Association; he was elected board president in June after four years on the board. He says his mission in the coming years is to advertise CCHC’s programs and engage the community.
“Part of our strategic plan for 2012, and the next five years, has been to try to bring people together and reengage people in discussions on issues affecting them,” Morrison says. “In the GLBT community, are there issues or are there programs that we’re not providing? So it’s really just asking that key question: what do you think? Part of this whole engagement process is going to be listening to the community.”
One example of this is a new program that began last year to train healthcare professionals how to better serve trans people. The Trans Health Connection’s first session launched in November and is a joint venture between CCHC, Rainbow Health Ontario and the Sherbourne Health Centre.
“That is a very specific population to be inserted into specialized health services,” Morrison says. “It will reach a population that tends to be overlooked.”
Amanda Ryan, second-vice-president of trans advocacy organization Gender Mosaic, says Trans Health Connection is a great asset to the community.
“I know friends who have been refused help simply because they are trans; sent away and possibly into a life-threatening situation,” Ryan says.
In these situations, it is usually an individual who makes the discriminatory call, Ryan says. It is never hospital policy.
“Which simply means we need education to better understand what’s going on within our community,” Ryan says.
For the senior community, OSPN’s United Way Award was unexpected yet well deserved, says group co-founder Marie Robertson.
“We’re old, we’re queer and we’re still here,” Robertson proclaimed in the group’s acceptance speech. “Our generation is not going back in the closet as we age and need services.”
Looking ahead, Robertson says OSPN’s most exciting project is Seniors Helping Seniors, a joint venture with the Good Companions Centre.
“If a gay senior calls and says they need a daily telephone assurance call or need someone to drive them to an appointment, they can ask for an LGBT person,” Robertson says.
Additionally, Robertson is in the process of executing queer competency work to amend practices at Good Companions, thanks to funding from United Way.
“I presented to the board and it was very positive. We now have authorization to change the forms in this place [to be inclusive for gay seniors],” Robertson says. “I’m trying to make it an LGBT-friendly place. I’ve been going through their policies and procedures.”
You can support OSPN by attending the Vintage Queers Dance, Saturday, Oct 13 at Good Companions.
For a comprehensive rundown of programs and services offered at CCHC, visit their official site.