Non-stigmatizing and welcoming healthcare will be available to the LGBTQ community.

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Non-stigmatizing and welcoming healthcare will be available to the LGBTQ community.

This exciting new project is a response to a specific need that practitioners in VNA Health Group have observed in the community: A health service center that understands the social landscape, including the stigmas, misconceptions and discrimination that LGBTQ people may face. Whether it’s a routine checkup, behavioral health services or STD screening, every patient will have access to top-notch healthcare while feeling free from judgment or discrimination. This project is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Department of Health’s Division of HIV, STD and TB Services.

“Disparities in healthcare still exist within the LGBTQ+ community, causing many to delay or ignore their healthcare needs,” said Shannon Preston, Director of HIV Community Services at VNA Health Group. “We are very excited to have this opportunity to provide a culturally competent healthcare setting.”

Beyond the need for non-stigmatizing, welcoming and confidential treatment, the center will immediately meet basic needs like physicals and checkups, STD testing and education, and HIV care. The education aspect is key, said Tom Thees, the interim executive director of the Community Health Center (CHC), which will house the new health center.

“The philosophy is that by providing competent services we will not only improve the health of the person presenting for care but will have an impact on the overall health of the greater community,” Thees said. “The expansion and focus on LGBTQ services is a complement to the CHC’s longstanding commitment to quality healthcare for the entire community.”

The location of the center inside the facility of the CHC in Asbury Park means that the facility will have access to the resources, equipment and exam rooms patients need for everything from illness to sprains. But, private areas will be part of the clinic, too, enabling support from individual providers and groups.

“We will also have access to confidential space where our trained counselors can provide STD testing and education, rapid HIV testing and education, PrEP counseling services, educational and supportive groups,” Preston said. “There will also be private space for case management, referral and behavioral health services.”

Call the Prevention Resource Network for more information and to set up an appointment. “We welcome any and all patients without prejudice or discrimination,” Thees said. “We have an enthusiastic and welcoming staff that takes pride in providing that care to our community.”