LGBTQ community center holds free health clinic for underserved patients

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COLUMBIA - The Center Project, mid-Missouri's LGBTQ community center, will provide free health care and behavioral health services Saturday to expand outreach to the area's LGBTQ population.

Members of the LGBTQ community can meet with health care professionals for free, even if they don't have insurance. They can receive physicals and mental health services. Physicians will offer flu shots and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. Mental health professionals will provide screening for anxiety and depression and offer therapy sessions to address patient concerns. 

Patients also have the option to set up future appointments with professionals and plan for ongoing health care options.

Marcail Smith, who organized the event, said the center created a survey and found the community didn't know they could get therapy or a doctor's letter to get hormones through The Center Project. 

Smith said it's important for the LGBTQ community to know these services exist. He said, personally, it was hard for him to find a trans friendly doctor to prescribe hormones. 

"There’s a lot of gatekeeping in the health care community, where you go through a bunch of hoops. 'Get a letter, get two letters, we don’t prescribe these hormones here, go to this place. Go to this endocrinologist.' It’s just kind of back and forth and back and forth,” Smith said.

Smith said he experienced this until he found his doctor, who goes by informed consent. 

“We don’t need a health care professional to tell us who we are," Smith said. "It’s important that we find these health care professionals to understand that and be open-minded and provide the healthcare that we need."

The Center Project has held clinics like this in the past, but Smith hopes to turn this into a more regular event. He said it could happen if people participate and the center gets the funds needed.