Integrated Care Strategies to Address the Unique Needs of LGBTQ+ Populations


As a result of historical oppression, social stigma and systemic health care challenges, people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ+) experience mental health and substance use challenges at alarmingly higher rates than those who do not identify as LGBTQ+.

LGBTQ+ communities comprise a vast range of varying identities and expressions of gender and sexual orientation. LBGTQ+ communities also represent much diversity across race, religion, physical ability, ethnicity, nationality and socioeconomic status.

The product of these identities and expressions is intersectionality. Lived experience and collective understanding unites members of LGBTQ+ communities and often results in pride and resiliency. Resilience, strength and expression among LGBTQ+ communities are centered during Pride Month.

Recent evidence suggests that members of this population are at significantly higher risk for experiencing mental health challenges. For example, LGBTQ+ adults are more than twice as likely to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime and roughly twice as likely to experience a substance use challenge when compared to heterosexual adults. Additionally, transgender individuals are four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health disorder. The LGBTQ+ population is notably at a much higher risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts than those who are heterosexual or cisgender.

LGBTQ+ youth are especially vulnerable to experiencing negative health outcomes, including suicidal ideation and substance use challenges. Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual adolescents are more than twice as likely to report experiences of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than their heterosexual counterparts. Read more on LGBTQ+ statistics to uncover the grueling mental health and substance use challenge inequities this population continues to face.

A solution?

It is evident that the mental health and substance use crisis disproportionately affects members of the LGBQT+ community. Health care providers have an opportunity to improve the overall wellbeing of individuals who identify as LGBTQ+. Integrated care – the coordination of general health, mental health and substance use treatment through a patient-centered, team-based approach – can play a key role in addressing the unique needs of LGBTQ+ populations. Leveraging integrated care and its associated models supports comprehensive treatment of the whole person and offers an identity and gender-affirming approach to care that is sensitive, responsive and affirming to patients with varying gender identities and expressions including those who are transgender. 

Check out the following resources to learn more about how integrated care can be a key strategy in supporting LGBTQ+ individuals and improve health outcomes.

Center of Excellence for Integrated Health Solutions – LGBTQ+ Tools and Resources
Other Resources


Victoria Pauline, MPH
Project Manager, Center of Excellence for Integrated Health Solutions
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