Cedar Ridge now offers services for LGBTQ+ people

People who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to have suicidal ideation and engage in self-harm. Photo provided.

by Robin Dorner
Editor in Chief

It is well documented that LGBTQ+ people suffer greater challenges with mental health issues. Personal, family and social acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity affects the mental health and personal safety of LGBTQ+ individuals.

According to Mental Health America, LGBTQ+ individuals are three times more likely to experience a mental health condition as compared to people that identify as straight. LGBTQ+ youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm, as compared to straight youths.

A shocking 38-65 percent of transgender people experience suicidal ideation. The statistics are also staggering for individuals who abuse substances (including alcohol), experience depression and anxiety.

Cedar Ridge in Oklahoma City has created a culturally competent clinical environment for LGBTQ+ patients who need behavioral and psychiatric services. Services are for both adults and youths.

“All of our therapists have been trained in LGBTQ+ cultural competency by yours truly,” said Kris Williams, LGBTQ Coordinator at Cedar Ridge Behavioral Hospital. “I also provide the same training to all new staff at Cedar Ridge. The nature of my job is to be there to consult if specific LGBTQ questions or issues arise and to be an advocate if needed.”

Williams said finding affirmative health care can be very challenging in the area of the country in which we live.

“As you know, the LGBTQ community is disproportionately affected by mental and physical health disparities,” said Williams. “The community as a whole has had a distrust of the health care community for obvious reasons, such as our experience through the AIDS crisis, LGBT being an actual diagnosis as a mental health disorder and the insurmountable stories of mistreatment by individuals in our community.

“We know that LGBTQ people have minority stressors to deal with, and at Cedar Ridge, it is our goal to eliminate those stressors so that patients can focus on their recovery in a safe and affirming environment.

Williams said she is proud to work for an organization that has put the safety of our community as a top priority.

“We believe we must respond to the needs of the people we serve, which is the thought process behind the LGBTQ Outpatient program for adults.”

Adult and senior adult services are located at the Bethany campus, and the children and adolescent services are located at the original campus at NE 50th St. in Northeast OKC.

The LGBTQ+ track for Outpatient Services is located at the Bethany campus, even though patients participate remotely via telehealth.

“Group therapy is done via telehealth the same way it is done in person,” said Lacey Callahan, Director of Business Development, Cedar Ridge Behavioral Hospital. “There is a licensed therapist there who helps guide the discussion and provides psycho/social educational lessons on issues relating to mental health,” she said. “In this case, those issues that are unique to the LGBTQ culture. Participants can share one at a time from their screens at home.”

The therapist helps facilitate the processing of the shares.

“Group therapy is so effective because it’s one thing to share your feelings with a therapist who is a professional, which also happens in a group setting, but it’s so beneficial to hear from peers who may be going through or dealing with the same issues.”

Telehealth service requires a device that has both audio and video, so patients need to have a smartphone with a camera, a tablet, a laptop or desk computer. Without one of those devices, patients may attend the program in person while observing social distancing practices.

Cedar Ridge is in-network with most major health insurance carriers, and Medicare also covers these services. Medicaid, unfortunately, is not accepted. Patients can call for questions about paying for treatment.

“With adult services being offered remotely via telehealth, those LGBTQ+ people living out of state can attend, but it’s suggested that patients call first to determine if our program is the right fit,” said Callahan. “From there, they would attend the program daily via telehealth just like everyone else.”

During the current COVID-19 crisis, most insurance carriers are being very lenient with covering telehealth services due to the risk of older adults getting out.

“We hope to have enough members of the LGBTQ+ community participate in the program that we can run a separate group solely for this patient demographic,” Callahan said. “That’s the purpose of us developing a specific curriculum for the LGBTQ+ track that is tailored to the unique mental health needs of this community.”

Being in a group of all LGBTQ+ people will depend on how much interest they get for the program.

“As an organization, we’ve always tried to be responsive to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community we serve as we become aware of them,” said Williams. This is how many of our specialized service lines have come about.

“Most recently, we opened the NEST Program (Nurturing and Empowering Sexual and Gender Minority Teens), which is an inpatient residential program specialized in meeting the needs of LGBTQ+ adolescents.

The program was created because this patient demographic continues to make up a larger and larger percentage of patients, disproportionate to the percentage they make up of the general public.

“The kids in our NEST program are showing much improved clinical outcomes and reduced recidivism.”

Williams said she joined the staff at Cedar Ridge because of a youth she met there while I was touring.

“They approached me and told this very lesbian looking me, that they knew I was a safe person to talk to as soon as they saw me,” Williams explained. “I will never forget that moment. I have worked with our youth for many years, but to be able to provide a safe environment in a residential inpatient setting and to be able to be a part of the solution of some of our health disparities on this level was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss out on.

“I am grateful to be a part of a team that put together the first LGBTQ adolescent inpatient residential program, and I’m excited to see what we can do for the adult community through our Intensive Outpatient Program.”

For information about Cedar Ridge and their services, (405) 792-5330 (Bethany), or visit www.cedarridgebhs.com.

Copyright The Gayly. 6/7/2020 @ 5:33 p.m. CST.