In November, The Spahr Center released a strategic plan to guide the development of its programs from 2021-25. The document, titled Raising the Bar on Our Future responded to the needs and aspirations of 150 individuals who informed its development. It committed the agency to 15 initiatives to strengthen the community, increase wellness for LGBTQ+ and HIV people, and create a more supportive Marin. The plan can be read at www.thespahrcenter.org.
For 2021, The Spahr Center’s Board and staff prioritized 7 of the initiatives for implementation. We wanted to provide a brief report on how we’re doing!
Leverage community partnerships to establish a Transgender Health & Wellness Clinic; and Establish Case Management services that connect LGBTQ+ people with essential support services.
We have conducted research about models in other counties for establishing a Transgender Clinic, assessed gaps in services available in Marin, and determined what Marin’s clinic should provide by way of health and social services. Dr. Jei Africa, the County’s Director of Behavioral Health, who started a similar clinic in San Mateo County, is convening a meeting later this month with multiple public and private agencies to discuss initial steps in planning for a clinic. We thank him for his support to realize this vision. We are also organizing meetings with Marin Community Clinic and UCSF’s transgender health department to understand their current partnership and what might be possible in the future.
While The Spahr Center is most frequently asked to provide case management for transgender people, we plan to combine case management for all LGBTQ+ people. We are currently identifying existing providers in Marin to compile a network of culturally competent health, wellness, and support services. This will ultimately be available in an online resource guide and will allow us to make referrals to providers who will effectively serve our community.
Establish a space that serves as a focal point for LGBTQ+ and HIV community connection and expression, with expanded social and cultural events, support groups, and volunteer opportunities.
The Spahr Center’s lease on its current office ends on November 30 of this year. It’s a good thing. With growth in our programs and services, we are bursting at the seams. We additionally do not have the drop in, meeting and event spaces that would transform us from a set of offices into a community center. And so...the search for a new space has begun! You will be hearing much from us about how you can help us move from merely having offices to having a real home for our community.
Ensure that planning, delivery and evaluation of The Spahr Center’s programs and services prioritize racial equity and the leadership of LGBTQ+ people of color.
The Spahr Center’s staff is beginning to develop the agency’s comprehensive work plan for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, 2021. A specific element of that process includes the development of an initiative starting in July to implement this important priority. Additionally, we are recruiting a more diverse set of members of our Board of Directors, and prioritizing the hiring of additional Black, Indigenous and People of Color to our growing staff.
Build a Friendly Visitors program to increase social support for LGBTQ Seniors.
With funding from the Board of Supervisors and Horizon’s Foundation, this program is underway. We are actively recruiting volunteer visitors (see our related story below), conducting outreach to senior care facilities to identify individuals seeking to connect with our services, and conducting visits with a small number of seniors, Please consider becoming a volunteer Visitor and help us to grow this important program!
Provide services to address inequities in viral suppression and in new cases of HIV infection among Latinx and African-American people.
In January, The Spahr Center hired Jay Campos as our Bilingual HIV Prevention Navigator, and he is now hard at work conducting community outreach to expand our HIV testing efforts and to increase the number of sexually active people at risk for HIV infection who are taking PrEP - a once daily pill that prevents infection. Jay’s work is focused on young Latino and African American gay and bisexual men. We have also started a new program that makes it possible for us to do all of the bloodwork necessary to evaluate a client for PrEP, prescribe and deliver medications to make it super easy to start this highly effective prevention and intervention. We are very excited about the potential of this program to meet our goal of achieving zero new HIV infections in Marin (there were 17 in 2020) within a decade.
Develop a Safe Schools model for LGBTQ+ inclusion, equity, and safety in schools.
Led by Fel Agrelius, our great social welfare intern Rori Sante, and the members of our Youth Advocacy Coalition (YAC), this work is well underway! The Spahr Center recently launched a Toolkit that supports individual educators to understand the needs of their LGBTQ+ students and be strong allies and advocates for them. It is now being widely distributed throughout the county. YAC members are currently meeting with their principals and school administrators to discuss site specific requests for how to strengthen curriculum and school culture in order to make them more supportive of LGBTQ+ youth. As Covid restrictions ease, we look forward to resuming the Allyship Trainings we have conducted for over 1,500 educators in recent years.
We will keep Spahrkle readers well-informed about continuing progress on Raising The Bar on our Future, and welcome questions and support for our work. Please feel free to contact Dana Van Gorder at firstname.lastname@example.org.