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Few Chemical Dependency Treatment Programs in U.S. Offer GLBT-Specific Care

We’ve always thought our services were exceptional, but now we know just how rare they are. A new national study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration finds that only six percent of substance abuse treatment facilities offer special programs for gay & lesbian clients. The study did not include the availability of special services for bisexual or transgender individuals, but MCC’s state-licensed, outpatient Chemical Dependency Treatment Program is specifically designed for people who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender.

One of the reasons it is so important to provide culturally affirming services is because our clients may not feel safe to talk openly about all the gritty details of their drug and alcohol use. For example, they may have  exchanged drugs for sex or participated in group sex at a bath house. Maybe the only place they know where to meet others in the community is at the bars. Those who are HIV+ may not feel comfortable talking openly about their status in other treatment environments.

Everyone knows what it’s like to be the odd person out, and that’s not a conducive environment for recovery. If you cannot openly discuss what triggers your addiction, how can you get the help you need? Other mainstream programs may not discriminate, but that doesn’t guarantee that everyone else in the program or group won’t. When others are talking about their husbands or wives, will you feel comfortable discussing your partner, or having your partner participate in your treatment?  Will you have to explain GLBT culture, or will you censor yourself because that’s how you’ve learned to manage in heterosexist environments?

“Although it’s not an ideal coping skill and is potentially destructive, it is understandable that many in our community attempt to medicate the emotional pain they experience due to society’s marginalization,” says Andrea Washington, LCSW, Chemical Dependency Treatment Program Coordinator at Montrose Counseling Center. Being GLBT often means fear of rejection from the church, friends and family members. Losing those support systems leaves few resources for them to turn to when they are struggling with their sexual orientation or gender identity. Many attempt to suppress their feelings and focus that lack of acceptance through internalized homophobia.

The SAMHSA study found that facilities whose primary focus is both Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Treatment, like Montrose Counseling Center, are more than twice as likely to offer programs targeting the GLBT communities than those whose primary focus is general health care.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D., says, “The treatment community needs to work with all segments of our society to ensure that Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people, as well asmembers of other underserved groups, are afforded more opportunities for this kind of specialized care.”

September is Alcohol and Drug Recovery Month. If you’re ready to take that first step toward sobriety, give us a call at 713.529.0037 to schedule an intake. For more information about MCC’s GLBT and HIV+ Intensive Outpatient and Relapse Prevention programs, click here.

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