KALAMAZOO — Integrated Services of Kalamazoo is using a $75,000 grant to become "more inclusive in our practices and approach" regarding the LGBTQ+ population, Project Director Carlos Brown tells Pride Source.
The grant comes from an initiative called the Suicide Prevention Support for Health Care Clinics Working with Michigan's Health-Disparate Populations and is funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation, the Children's Foundation, and the Ethel and James Flinn Foundation. According to a press release regarding the initiative, the groups are "joining forces to assist health care clinicians and behavioral health specialists implement sustainable, evidence-based practices that address the growing epidemic of suicide in Michigan."
It goes on to say that the "CDC's National Center for Health Statistics shows a total of 7,133 deaths by suicide in Michigan from 2014 through 2018."
ISK, formerly known as Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services, will use this funding for staff-wide training.
"[This grant] provided additional funding that will go to training not only our clinical staff, but our agency as a whole so that we can become a more inclusive organization for LGBTQ individuals," Brown says, noting that it will be an "agency-wide cultural training."
"No matter if you're an administrator or working the front desk or you're a peer, everyone will have some kind of training when it comes to serving the LGBTQ population," he says.
LGBTQ+ cultural competency is important in an agency like ISK because LGBTQ+ people have some of the highest risks for suicide. Protective factors like personal support systems and inclusive and supportive school environments are often missing, Brown says, noting that transgender people have the highest risk due to issues related to body dysmorphia, not to mention the social stigma and hostility transgender people face.
In addition to training, ISK also hired a community health worker designated to helping the LGBTQ+ population.
"We are addressing addition needs outside of mental health," Brown says. These issues include things like physical health needs, food stamp assistance, insurance and housing. "We're trying to treat the whole person."
For more information about ISK visit iskzoo.org. If you or a loved one are in crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.