July 15, 2015

UAB to open mental health and wellness clinic for LGBTQ community

Written by
LGBT flagThe University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Psychiatry will open a mental health and wellness clinic specifically for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning individuals. The clinic will see patients beginning Monday, July 20.

“There is a dramatic need for a clinic that will serve the mental health needs of the LGBTQ community in Birmingham,” said James Meador-Woodruff, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurobiology. “Studies have shown that members of this community are at increased risk for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and suicide. It is incumbent on UAB, as an academic medical center, to find ways to deliver the best possible care to all individuals in our society, and this clinic will help us achieve that aim.”

Larry McMillan, M.D., has joined the UAB faculty to see patients at the clinic. McMillan did his residency training and a two-year fellowship in psychiatry at UAB. He will see both adult and adolescent patients.

“Many members of the LGBTQ community are not inclined to seek professional help when they are in need due to fears of being marginalized or stigmatized,” McMillan said. “We want to knock down those barriers to care so that the new clinic is a welcoming environment where those who identify as LGBTQ will feel comfortable enough to seek assistance for their mental health needs.”

The clinic will operate in the Department of Psychiatry space on the third floor of the Callahan Eye Hospital building, 1720 University Boulevard. Call 205-934-7008, option #2, for appointments. Clinic patients who need advanced care will be referred to appropriate UAB services.

The clinic opening is part of a greater realization at academic medical centers of the need to increase LGBTQ-related medical education. The American Association of Medical Colleges issued a publication in November 2014 that featured the first guidelines for training physicians to care for people who are LGBTQ, are gender nonconforming or were born with differences of sex development. Until now, there have been no formal comprehensive standards to help medical schools and health care organizations train providers in the health care needs of these patients.

UAB, along with other medical schools in the country, has created curricula for all medical students in the care of LGBTQ patients. Psychiatric residents and fellows receive additional, intensive training on managing the mental health concerns of this population.

“We have to start with appropriate training for physicians, students and staff,” said Stephanie Perry, administrative manager of psychiatric clinics at UAB. “Our aim is to create the appropriate culture to provide nonjudgmental mental health care through awareness, training and education.”

According to the federal government’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, LGBTQ youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide, and LGBTQ populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol and other drug use. Other health conditions such as sexually transmitted diseases and obesity are elevated in LGBTQ communities.