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First LGBTQ+ health clinic opens in Rhode Island

Open Door Health clinic provides primary, sexual health care

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 11, 2020

The clinic was partially funded by the Rhode Island Foundation, and Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Open Door Health opened March 2 and is now Rhode Island’s first health clinic that specializes in primary care, sexual health and other health initiatives for the LGBTQ+ community. The clinic is located at 7 Central Street in Providence.

Open Door Health provides services “for individuals looking for culturally competent care,” said Philip Chan, the clinic’s medical director and associate professor in the University’s Department of Medicine. “We also specialize in sexual health … that includes HIV testing, HIV care, STD testing, as well as pre-exposure prophylaxis and hepatitis C testing and treatment.” Open Door Health provides walk-in STD testing.

The clinic was founded to help eliminate some of the disparities that the LGBTQ+ community encounters in its access to healthcare, according to Chan. “The biggest need that I’ve seen in Rhode Island is the lack of primary care for the LGBTQ+ population,” Chan said. “We’ve had no place to refer people to (for) primary care, and that’s the gap that the clinic is really looking to fill.”

At the official ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gov. Gina Raimondo stated that LGBTQ+ Rhode Islanders “often (face) discrimination and stigma,” and that this clinic is an important step in addressing the needs of that community.

She added that “every Rhode Islander deserves access to safe, high-quality health care provided in a welcoming, respectful and supportive environment,” and that “this beautiful, state-of-the-art clinic will help us meet that goal.”

President and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation Neil Steinberg is proud to support Open Door Health. Helping fund the clinic “is an opportunity that we have to assist in improving patient-centered primary care by reducing barriers, focusing on the (LGBTQ+) population and promoting new culturally appropriate care delivery,” he said.

Since opening, Open Door Health has seen and treated people every day, according to Chan. While the clinic has mainly seen adult patients thus far, there is a pediatric nurse practitioner on staff.

The Rhode Island Foundation partially funded the clinic with a grant of $175,000 because “we’re focusing on health equity and reducing disparities … and the work of Open Door Health aligns squarely with these objectives,” Steinberg said.

Open Door Health receives funding from other sources as well, including the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services and HIV care program, Chan said. In addition, the clinic is supported by the Champlin Foundation, CVS, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Rhode Island Department of Health.

“Some of these programs are how we’re going to offset (costs) for people that can’t pay or afford care,” said Chan. “Some of these funders will help step up and provide some safety net funding for those individuals.” Open Door Health bills insurance companies, but specified “we are advocates for public health, and for the people that can’t pay, they should talk to us about different ways that we can still make it work.”

In the future, Open Door Health is looking to expand the range of services it offers. According to Chan, “The (LGBTQ+) population really faces a myriad of health challenges,” including behavioral health, mental health and substance use treatment, “so we’re starting with primary care and STD testing, but we do envision that we will expand to include access to other health services as well.”

Other aspirations for the clinic include education, research and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. Ultimately, “we really want to use this clinic as a platform to really revolutionize care across the state of Rhode Island,” Chan said.

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