The clinic will provide additional LGBTQ-friendly health care to a community that doesn't often have a lot of supportive options in the area.
Ginny Bixby | January 24, 2019
The Norfolk-based LGBT Life Center isn’t just an advocacy organization. It’s a lifeline for members of the Hampton Roads LGBTQ community who may have nowhere else to turn.
CEO Stacie Walls-Beegle said that the organization, which is nearing its thirtieth anniversary, is expecting to fully open its third Norfolk location on Monticello Avenue by March or April. The location was previously occupied by the center’s HIV testing and outreach program. The space is being renovated to become their first full-scale clinical space, which will have three exam rooms, a testing room, and an onsite pharmacy. While the clinic is open now, the pharmacy is still being worked on, and won’t be operational til spring.
“You’ll be able to come into the clinic, get tested, get your medications right there on site, and do kind of a one stop shop experience for your health care,” said Walls-Beegle. “We know that people are much more adherent to care if we can provide them with the convenience of pharmacy on site, and then also if there’s a welcoming, affirming atmosphere, people are more inclined to continue to be engaged in care.”
The LGBT Life Center is an LGBTQ community center that provides LGBTQ health and wellness services as well as HIV related care. The organization has roots in multiple community advocacy programs dating back to 1989. It began by providing HIV services to women and children, and continues to do so today, three decades later. In 2011, it expanded its mission to include LGBTQ health and wellness, and opened their first LGBTQ community center. The center still provides HIV specialty care.
“In the last two to three years, our largest requested service has been LGBT knowledgeable physicians,” said Walls-Beegle. “We were having difficulty. There’s a few physicians in our community who we would refer to, but the lists [of requests] were so long that there was just not enough capacity. So we really sought to develop more capacity for LGBT-friendly and affirming care, and also more access to HIV specialty care.”
The new location will be offering transgender health-specific services, including hormone replacement therapy.
“Our goal is to provide an atmosphere in a clinic setting where people can discuss whatever they want to discuss with their doctor, and that’s not always available for people who are LGBT,” said Walls-Beegle.
In addition to physical health services, the center has been offering clinical mental health services since 2011 in the form of support groups, medication, and therapy. It offers individual, family, and couples counseling for LGBTQ people and people with HIV, as well as community-specific support groups, such as Queer Persons of Color and Trans-Masculine Group meetings. In addition, there are yoga classes conducted by a volunteer for no charge.
“We recognize there is a variety of holistic health options, so providing social as well as health-related services is part of our mission,” said Walls-Beegle.
One of the center’s biggest services is its housing program. It works within a network of homeless service providers in the greater Hampton Roads area to provide a comprehensive approach to housing displaced members of the LGBTQ and HIV+ commmunities.
“We have a great reputation for providing supportive housing services,” said Walls-Beegle.
The center works with other shelters because they don’t provide emergency shelter; however, it specializes in rapid rehousing and LGBTQ homelessness prevention.
“We have people show up in our center who have been evicted — illegally — from their property without an eviction process… because they are transgender, or because they are gay,” said Walls-Beegle. “Or they lose their job, and they come to the center seeking assistance. We’re able to provide services to get them out of crisis.” Individuals who come to the center after losing their homes have access to counseling, a food pantry, housing assistance, referrals to healthcare professionals, and the in-house clinical site.
Walls-Beegle hopes that the opening of this new center will help the organization have a greater impact on the local LGBTQ community.
“It’s been a great ride, but we also recognize there is more to be done in the community,” she said.
The clinic is currently taking appointments and walk-ins. Call 757-640-0929 to set up an appointment.