Starting in December, gay, bisexual and transgender Marylanders recovering from substance abuse will be able to receive LGBT-focused resources and services at Baltimore's LGBT community center.
Through a partnership with Maryland RecoveryNet, a federally-funded initiative meant to increase access to support services for those recovering from drug addiction, the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) will begin providing LGBT-focused recovery support services.
The new program is, according to GLCCB executive director Matt Thorn, the largest expansion of LGBT-oriented addiction recovery services in Maryland.
"This is an LGBT-specific outreach effort and program for the GLCCB to work exclusively with the LGBT population," Thorn said. "It hasn't really been done before."
Definitive data on substance abuse in the LGBT population is lacking, but many studies show higher rates of substance abuse, particularly alcohol abuse. A 2010 federal agency report estimated 20 to 30 percent of the LGBT population as substance abusers, compared to about 9 percent in the U.S. population at large.
The discrepancy stems in large part from discrimination. A Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration report found that some LGBT individuals turn to substance abuse to cope with low self-esteem caused by anti-LGBT bias. Along the same lines, a Center for American Progress study released last year pointed to both stress triggered by antigay prejudices and "a lack of cultural competency in the health care system" as two reasons for the high substance abuse rate among the LGBT community.
Those issues affect substance abusement treatment as well. In particular, discrimination in housing and health care benefits can stymie an LGBT individual's recovery prospects.
"Even though we've made a lot of progress in Maryland, it doesn't always trickle down," he said. "We're still dealing with individuals who are going to hospitals and some of these centers to get services and treatment, and they’re still being discriminated against for who they are. When that happens, you're less likely to keep pushing and pursuing to get the health and services you need."
To help LGBT individuals surpass those obstacles, the GLCCB is taking a two-pronged approach. Aided by Maryland RecoveryNet and a federal Access to Recovery grant, coordinators at the community center will assist participants with getting into recovery and treatment programs, connect them to employment services and help ensure those recovering from substance abuse are building the foundation needed for full recovery.
"Maryland RecoveryNet is excited to be launching this new pilot program in the Access To Recovery initiative that will begin funding care coordinators and recovery peer specialist within the GLCCB," said RecoveryNet regional area coordinator Dena Trail in a statement.
To further boost recovering LGBT individuals' chances for success, the GLCCB plans to work with housing, counseling and health care centers to provide sensitivity training and guidelines to working with the LGBT population. The organization will also increase awareness of specific health concerns that disproportionately affect the LGBT community more than the broader population.
"You're dealing with a higher number of HIV individuals, the health concerns that go into being transgender and dealing with substance abuse ... there are so many factors that go into being LGBT when it comes to health," Thorn said.