Since Pride Month 2013, much has happened that we can be proud of. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Department of Health and Human Services, and the entire nation have made enormous progress regarding the health and welfare of America’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. These changes include the expansion of health care coverage that includes parity for mental health and addiction services and key protections for LGBT individuals, implementation of the Windsor decision to ensure programs and policies include legally married same-sex couples and their families, and additional resources for LGBT individuals and providers who serve them.
On May 22nd, I attended the Harvey Milk Stamp Unveiling Ceremony at the White House. Harvey Milk was one of the first openly gay elected officials in the United States, and gave LGBT Americans hope and confidence in a time when they were often faced with intolerance and discrimination. Milk once said, “All young people, regardless of sexual orientation or identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.”
At SAMHSA, we could not agree more. That’s why, this year, SAMHSA supported the development of several new resources related to LGBTQ youth. These resources include “A guide for understanding, supporting, and affirming LGBTQI2-S children, youth, and families,” “A Practitioner’s Resource Guide: Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children,” which was released in conjunction with HRC’s Time to Thrive conference, and “LGBTQ Youth and Sexual Abuse: Information for Mental Health Professionals” .
I also recently participated in a briefing on Capitol Hill where I discussed SAMHSA’s work on LGBT youth suicide prevention and family acceptance. During the briefing, I was happy to be able to discuss the 16 of SAMHSA Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act state and tribal grantees that are focusing efforts on LGBTQ youth. It gives me great hope to see so many efforts around the country to support gay, lesbian, and transgender young people.
However, at SAMHSA we know our work isn’t finished. Last week, we released a Request for Application to provide supplemental funds for an Addiction Technology Transfer Center to establish and continue a Center of Excellence on Behavioral Health for Racial/Ethnic Minority Young Men Who Have Sex with Men (YMSM) and LGBT populations. We are also improving the way we collect data about LGBT populations, by including LGBT data in surveys and program data collection, so that we have better information to help guide our efforts to improve LGBT behavioral health.
SAMHSA takes great pride in the progress made for LGBT individuals with or at risk for behavioral health conditions. But, you can rest assured that SAMHSA will continue our work to lead public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation, including LGBT individuals.