Individuals that identify as LGBTQ+, particularly persons of color, face unique challenges accessing health care and other services. If we are to advance health equity of our LGBTQ+ community members in the Richmond region, we must first understand their needs and challenges of receiving culturally competent care and services, hear firsthand about their lived experiences, and engage them in crafting solutions that matter.
To gain a deeper understanding, RMHF commissioned a needs and opportunities assessment for the LGBTQ+ community in the Richmond region. The assessment was funded in partnership with Laughing Gull Foundation, a North Carolina-based foundation addressing structural racism and economic inequality, and conducted by Dr. Kevin Allison and Dr. Eli Costen at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Greater Richmond LGBTQ+ Needs and Opportunities Assessment, which is now complete and available to the public, seeks to identify unmet needs among LGBTQ+ people in the Greater Richmond Area, as well as increase our understanding of which needs are currently being met by existing services already in place in our community. The assessment was conducted using a thorough and inclusive process. As part of the study, VCU created an advisory board, fielded over 100 online surveys and held focus groups with our region’s LGBTQ+ community members and service providers working with the community.
Findings of the assessment offer hope and also show us that much more work is needed to adequately serve this community. Many community respondents reported that their physical health was ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’ (41.4%), which is encouraging. However, only 36.7% of respondents reported that their mental health was ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good’ and improved mental health services were an important priority of respondents, with a concerning 18.3% indicating mistreatment from mental health providers.
Racial and ethnic discrimination was rated as the most important policy priority among community members responding to the survey (74.5%). This is not mirrored in the service provision by community organizations, with only 25% of service providers indicating that this was an area in which they do substantial work. This lack of alignment in community perception and service availability warrants attention, and will inform RMHF’s policy and advocacy work moving forward.
The ultimate goal of the report is to support and ensure continuation of services where there are concrete benefits to our community, while also recognizing the opportunity for increased service provision in areas where needs are unmet or the community is underserved. Understanding both of these aspects is critical in planning for future initiatives and programs that will ensure that LGBTQ+ Richmonders are not just surviving but thriving.