LGBT Health and the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act

Yesterday, the Progress and Development committee of the Missouri Senate opened its 2 p.m. hearing with SB 653 or the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA). Through the strong leadership of Senator Joseph Keaveny, we were thrilled to have an early hearing on this important bill.

Please, find below the testimony that I had given on behalf of LGBT health advocates in Missouri. Stressing the impacts that discrimination, stigma, and lack of public policy support have had on the health outcomes of the LGBT community is a new approach to link MONA to LGBT health.

Senate Hearing
Progress and Development Committee – 1/27/16
LGBT Health

I’m here to testify in support SB653 or the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the existing Missouri Human Rights Statute, which currently prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations. In considering this measure, you are taking a step which could have a lasting impact on the health outcomes of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Missourians.

The Missouri Foundation for Health in its 2012 health equity report entitled “Responding to LGBT Health Disparities” acknowledged that discrimination, stigma, and a lack of public policy support by the State of Missouri has had a negative impact on the health of LGBT Missourians. Further evidence of LGBT health disparities can be found in a 2013 report issued by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services entitled “The Burden of Chronic Diseases in Missouri: Progress and Challenges”, which specifically showed differences in health care outcomes for LGBT Missourians compared to the general population.

These findings are a startling glimpse into the negative health outcomes that have come due to discrimination. With this health data, LGBT health advocates have been working close with health and social service providers to close this gap.

Having worked, personally, for the past several years in Missouri with medical providers, hospitals, and hospitals systems I can say without a doubt that we are in a new era of LGBT health protections in the State of Missouri. To date, health advocates have worked with over 53 Missouri hospitals to incorporate 125 LGBT welcoming protections. These hospitals and systems include SSM Health, BJC Healthcare, Cox Health, Saint Luke’s in Kansas City, Fulton State Hospital and (in my hometown) Ste. Genevieve Memorial Hospital, all of whom acknowledge that disparities due exist and have found a need to protect their LGBT patients from discrimination.

Having experienced my own health care issues at the beginning of 2015, I can attest to the fear that arrises in LGBT Missourians when they enter into the Missouri health care system. Having gone to my surgery with my loved one, all I could remember thinking about was how I would be treated, and if the care I received would be the same as any other person. No Missourian should have to feel that way when receiving care. This body has the opportunity change that, by ensuring that hardworking LGBT Missourians are protected from discrimination.

I urge you on behalf of the health of LGBT Missourians to support SB653

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