After years of careful planning, education and advocacy for LGBTQ+ health care, Rush officially launched Affirm: The Rush Center for Gender, Sexuality and Reproductive Health in January. Affirm is an interprofessional, patient-centered approach to care. At the heart of our program are our patient navigators, Morigaña May and Willie Basset, who provide a direct connection and relationship with patients seeking inclusive providers and services at Rush.
Much of this work started by recognizing and advocating for the care of LGBTQ+ employees here at Rush. Going directly to our LGBTQ+ community, we were able to expand upon those needs and work in tandem with our community partners to create a collaborative and supportive approach to care, breaking down long-standing barriers in the medical system. We recognized the care available for LGBTQ+ individuals in pockets around the Chicago area and also the lack of services available on Chicago’s West Side. Working with our community partners, we are able to expand access to care all over the Chicago area.
Currently, the majority of services provided are for gender-affirming care, which help transgender and nonbinary individuals transition into their identified gender. These include surgical services, hormone therapy, behavioral health, primary care, and more. Since Affirm’s launch in January 2020, we have navigated over 300 patients across the Rush System. Our patient care navigators offer comprehensive support to help patients surrounding the surgical experience, and the often hidden components including insurance navigation and even after-care housing. By approaching our patient’s needs through multiple lenses, our team is able to both help improve access to this type of care and the quality of the experience as a whole.
The significance of Transgender Awareness Week is not lost when talking about barriers to care. Too often hidden barriers rooted in a medical system that focuses only on cisgender needs increases health inequities and gaps in care. We know the data, we know lack of access to care leads to poor health outcomes — which too often become fatal, especially for trans people of color. By advocating for and with our community, Affirm has made possible a gateway to creating change on a systematic level.