Palm Beach Source for LGBT- Sensitive Therapists

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While researching another story, SFGN made a discovery that seemed important for Palm Beach County readers.  The Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County (www.mhapbc.org) has an online referral form that allows providers to indicate areas of specialty. What is unique about this list is the fact that it includes “LGBT Issues” as one of the fields providers can advertise.

LGBT inclusion is not common among social services agencies in South Florida or many other places for that matter, so finding a resource that indicates a desire to help LGBT people is important.

South Florida Gay News visited with Pamela Gionfriddo, executive director of the Mental Health Association to learn more.

“About two years ago, when we were designing our new online tools, including the provider search tool, we decided there was a need for a database that would enable our site visitors to search for providers that specialized in their particular needs,” said Gionfriddo.

We had had a Lunch and Learn program on LGBT issues just before we brainstormed the categories for inclusion so LGBT issues were at the top of mind,” she continued.  “It’s an area that is often overlooked (well, you know that) but it is starting to get more attention.”

Over 250 providers offer more than 65 types of specialties including some 55 providers who list LGBT Issues. In addition to specialties, selection criteria include location, specific licensing, age groups and insurance plans accepted and more.

Providers must be licensed health professionals in good standing to be listed in the directory.  However, Gionfriddo advises users to check licensing before engaging with a listed individual or agency and the site provides links to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Florida Department of Health where this information is available.

“Unfortunately with tight budgets and a lack of resources, we are just not able to constantly monitor the providers in our database,” said Gionfriddo. “We rely on users to let us know of any adverse information.”

South Florida Gay News reached out to several providers who are listed in the database. Only two responded by press time: Ann McNeil, LCSW, a therapist in private practice in Boca Raton and Mark Rutherford, Clinical Social Work/Therapist, LCSW, and openly gay therapist in a multi-discipline practice in West Palm Beach.

“I’m on the provider list,” McNeil said. “But I haven’t received any referrals so far. I’ve participated in a number of MHA programs though and they are really excellent.”

Mark Rutherford also said he’s not aware of any clients being referred through the MHA system but added, “I haven’t gotten any referrals from the MHAPBC system to date but I know this type of program works because I have had success with my own website and a posting on Psychology Today.”

“We don’t typically get a lot of feedback,” said Gionfriddo. “We have statistics that show a lot of people visit our site but users and providers tend not to let us know if they have made specific searches.   We also help find referrals over the phone and give callers names of three providers so they may shop around and not just take the first person they meet.”

The Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County was established in 1949 and moved to its current building at 909 Fern Street in 1963.  The agency has another site at 2100 45th Street which houses its Peer Place Drop in Center.

Gionfriddo joined the organization in 2009. With a team of 11 full and part time paid staff and some 65 volunteers she has created a suite of programs and tools, like the provider database, to help Palm Beach Residents find a safe and welcoming place when they need mental health assistance.

“My wish is to enable people to get help before they become critical,” said Gionfriddo. Ideally we would start with the schools and have periodic scheduled mental health evaluations but like the gay issue the stigma around mental health has got to be overcome in order to achieve these goals.”

Visit www.mhapbc.org for more information.


Greg Kabel

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