Wheeler Health has received an evaluation of 95 out of 100 and the designation of “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer” in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 15th anniversary edition of the Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), the nation’s foremost benchmarking survey of healthcare facilities on policies and practices dedicated to the equitable treatment and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors, and employees. A record 906 healthcare facilities actively participated in the 2022 HEI survey, and 251 of those earned an “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer” designation. Of the 906 participants nationally, only 38 were federally qualified health centers.
“Wheeler Health has an unwavering commitment to providing compassionate, equitable care to the LGBTQ+ community, and this designation underscores our commitment,” said Sabrina Trocchi, PhD, MPA, President and Chief Executive Officer, Wheeler. “We strive to meet the unique health care needs of the LGBTQ+ community through a full continuum of integrated primary and behavioral health care services, as well as policies within our organization that acknowledge, affirm, and promote health and wellness among our LGBTQ+ clients, patients, and students. We also celebrate our diverse workforce by establishing inclusion opportunities for all staff to be seen, heard, and celebrated.”
“Every person deserves to have access to quality healthcare, be respected and heard by their doctor, and feel safe in the facility where they are receiving care. But LGBTQ+ people are often subject to discrimination in all spaces, including healthcare facilities, which leads to members of the community avoiding care and anticipating our voices will not be respected in an incredibly vulnerable environment,” said Tari Hanneman, Director of Health & Aging at The Human Rights Campaign. “The Healthcare Equality Index, at its core, strives to ensure LGBTQ+ people are protected and affirmed by their healthcare providers and feel safe seeking services. Our HEI active participants are truly pioneering the healthcare industry by implementing robust, comprehensive LGBTQ+ inclusive policies that hopefully, because of their work, will become standard practice.”
Wheeler delivers innovative and equitable care in several ways. Services such as Walk With Me, funded by an anonymous donor, offer a specialized outpatient treatment track for LGBTQ+-identifying people of all ages. The organization also offers gender-affirming hormone therapy, prophylaxis treatment, as well as an affirming environment of care guided by an LGBTQ+ Patient Advisory Board, including inclusive restrooms and highly trained staff who provide patient-centered care based on individual needs. Wheeler’s Foster Care team works closely with community members interested in foster care and related LGBTQ+ issues, and the organization supports various LGBTQ+ events throughout the year, tracking data to identify gaps and identify solutions.
In addition, staff are supported through training and ongoing development for their work with the LGBTQ+ community as well as their own personal growth. Employee engagement is fostered through year-round visibility campaigns, a PRIDE at Wheeler townhall meeting, LGBTQ+ speakers, diversity committees, and through promotion of a culture of respect by living Wheeler’s values of Compassion, Diversity and Inclusion, Integrity, and Teamwork.
HEI Evaluation and Scoring
The HEI evaluates and scores healthcare facilities on detailed criteria falling under four central pillars:
- Foundational Policies and Training in LGBTQ+ Patient-Centered Care;
- LGBTQ+ Patient Services and Support;
- Employee Benefits and Policies; and,
- Patient and Community Engagement.
In the 2022 report, an impressive 496 facilities earned HRC’s “LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader” designation, receiving the maximum score in each section and earning an overall score of 100. Another 251 facilities earned the “Top Performer” designation with scores between 80 to 95 points and at least partial credit in each section. With 82% of participating facilities scoring 80 points or more, health care facilities are demonstrating concretely that they are going beyond the basics when it comes to adopting policies and practices in LGBTQ+ care.
The remarkable progress reflected in the 2020 HEI includes:
- 93% of participants met the HEI’s training requirements, completing more than 200,000 hours of staff training in LGBTQ+ patient-centered care.
- 82% of participating facilities earned either the Leader or Top Performer.
- 99% of HEI participants documented that they include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their patient non-discrimination policy.
- 99% of HEI participants documented that they include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in their employment nondiscrimination policy.
- 81% of HEI participants offer transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits to their employees, up from 75% in 2019, which was the first year that it was required to receive Leader status.
In addition to active survey participants, the HRC Foundation proactively researched the key policies for LGBTQ+ inclusion at over 1,300 non-participating hospitals. Unfortunately, these research hospitals were much less likely to have LGBTQ+ non-discrimination policies in place, which is a stark contrast to the near-perfect adoption by active participants. Among the researched hospitals in which we were able to find or obtain enumerated patient non-discrimination policies, only 70% have policies that include both sexual orientation and gender identity compared to 99% of HEI participants.
The Human Rights Campaign Foundation is the educational arm of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people. Through its programs, the HRC Foundation seeks to make transformational change in the everyday lives of LGBTQ+ people, shedding light on inequity and deepening the public’s understanding of LGBTQ+ issues, with a clear focus on advancing transgender and racial justice. Its work has transformed the landscape for more than 15 million workers, 11 million students, 1 million clients in the adoption and foster care system and so much more. The HRC Foundation provides direct consultation and technical assistance to institutions and communities, driving the advancement of inclusive policies and practices; it builds the capacity of future leaders and allies through fellowship and training programs; and, with the firm belief that we are stronger working together, it forges partnerships with advocates in the U.S. and around the globe to increase our impact and shape the future of our work.
Wheeler provides comprehensive solutions that address complex health issues, providing individuals, families, and communities with accessible, innovative care that encourages health, recovery, and growth at all stages of life. Wheeler’s integrated approach to primary and behavioral health, education, and recovery creates measurable results, positive outcomes, and hopeful tomorrows for more than 50,000 individuals across Connecticut each year. Learn more: www.wheelerhealth.org.
Wheeler Family Health & Wellness Centers
Wheeler’s Family Health & Wellness Centers in Bristol, Hartford, New Britain, Plainville, and Waterbury offer integrated primary care and behavioral health care, addiction treatment, and complementary approaches to care.
Wheeler’s Family Health & Wellness Centers in Bristol, New Britain, Hartford, and Plainville are funded in part by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an operating division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Wheeler is a Health Center Program grantee under 42 U.S.C. 254b and a deemed Public Health Service employee under 42 U.S.C. 233(g)-(n).
Medicaid, Medicare, and commercial health insurance welcome. No patient will be denied health care services due to an individual’s inability to pay for services.