Connection to Care Learning Collaborative Launches Pilot Year to Increase LGBTQ+ and HIV Cultural Competency in Chicago’s Health Centers

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Health

Pride Action Tank (PAT), a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC), is excited to announce the pilot launch of the Connection to Care Learning Collaborative (CCLC). CCLC seeks to work with Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and look-alikes in Chicago to increase their capacity to provide LGBTQ+ and HIV culturally responsive care for their patients.

To determine which key topics, concepts, and practices need to be prioritized when developing training content for CCLC, PAT partnered with McAlpine Consulting for Growth (MCG) to administer a needs assessment to 22 FQHCs across Chicago. The survey aimed to gain better understanding of Chicago FQHC’s healthcare delivery models; assess the readiness of FQHC’s to provide culturally competent and evidence-based sexual health services; and identify what needs to shift operationally to increase capacity for culturally responsive care. The assessment, from July to December of 2021, was conducted through interviews, surveys and focus groups, and 16 out of the 22 FQHCs participated.

The results revealed opportunities to aid FQHCs in developing universal in-house HIV screening practices, adequate data reporting of their patients’ gender identity and sexual orientation, and maintaining consistent cultural competency training audiences, frequency, and content. Kim L. Hunt, the Executive Director of Pride Action Tank, shared why this project is pivotal in decreasing LGBTQ+ discrimination and ending the HIV epidemic:
The CCLC pilot program will kick-off with their first virtual meeting on June 21, 2022, and the program will conclude January 31, 2023. The participating FQHCs and look-alikes in Chicago include:

1. Alivio Medical Center 
2. Chicago Family Health Center
3. Community Health
4. Prime Care Health
5. Friend Health
6. TCA Health 

Over the course of the 8-month program, PAT will work with these health centers to increase their capacity for culturally competent HIV care through training, discussions and peer-to-peer sharing. Each FQHC will receive an $80,000 grant and will determine how to best utilize funds based on their organizational needs. Following the grant distribution, PAT and AFC will administer a survey to establish center-specific goals and action plans. The FQHCs will also have the opportunity to join a six-part series of learning experiences and regular one-on-one training sessions hosted by PAT and AFC, Erie Family Health and Howard Brown Health.

In tandem with the recent passing of SB3490: Disrupting Disparities for LGBTQ Older Adults and Older Adults Living With HIV, the launch of the Connection to Care Learning Collaborative serves as an additional mode of advocacy and support for LGBTQ communities as they navigate their resource options. While PAT and AFC are only working with six FQHCs and look-alikes during this pilot year, they certainly aim to work with many more centers in the future to ensure that healthcare centers remain culturally competent and accessible.

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