Arbor Circle received new grant that will further serve LGBTQ+ youth

LGBTQ youth, while making up a minority of the youth population, face an overwhelming health disparity. Poor mental health is almost two times more likely in LGBTQ youth, they experience higher rates of violence, and experience high rates of HIV. 

West Michigan is not exempt from this reality, and Arbor Circle is focused on serving this community.

On April 1 Arbor Circle announced a three-year $1.2 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to promote wellbeing for LGBTQ+ youth within their families and communities. The organization is one eight awardees. The grant will focus on  a mix of community education and awareness, while also providing direct counseling and support services to youth and families. 
Susan Sheppard
“These grants offer us an incredible opportunity to hire and train staff in a way that would usually take us much longer,” says Susan Sheppard, vice president and chief operating officer of Arbor Circle. “It also supports community connection and involvemen

Working with individuals, schools, organizations 

Arbor Circle will work with youth in Kent and Ottawa counties to increase positive messaging and awareness, while also working with intermediate school districts. The ability to provide trauma-informed care in the places that youth frequent will have a great impact on their overall access to care and their families’ access to resources.
A few West Michigan organizations are a formal part of the grant, including the Grand Rapids Pride Center, Out On the Lakeshore,and the LGBTQ Healthcare Consortium in Grand Rapids. The grant allows Arbor Circle to bring targeted support groups and targeted counseling resources to these community centers while specifically focusing on youth. 
Janelle Burden Hill
“Meeting with providers will allow us to let them know that they can refer patients to us. We will also be able to form connections with those providers, so if our youth need a different kind of healthcare we know where to tell them to go,” says Janelle Burden Hill, director of community engagement at Arbor Circle.

In 2017, Arbor Circle was part of a national group called True Colors United that focused on the needs of LGBTQ+ homeless youth. A coalition of organizations in West Michigan came together to create a community need assessment that culminated into two reports, the Safe Impact Report and the Community Recommendations to Address LGBTQ+ Youth Homelessness.

Arbor Circle has received a three-year, $1.2 million grant to increase access to care for LGTBQ+ youth and their families.

“This grant in a way really picks up where that work left off because that team really recognized that we don't have enough clinicians and resources dedicated just to LGBTQ+ youth,” says Sheppard. “There are specific trainings that are available, but they cost some dollars and that's why this grant is so great. Now every year we can train more Arbor Circle staff as well as our community partners. 

“It increases our ability to continue encouraging community awareness and messaging. There are so many resources in our community that sometimes they get lost, so this grant will help provide some clarity.”

More funding increases the opportunity to get involved in Arbor Circle’s work. Its website provides methods to get in contact with the team.

"Our philosophy of care, and the purpose of this kind of grant, is to let the youth know that they are welcome here, and we are intentional about providing care that is responsive to their individual needs,” says Burden Hill.

Ashley King is a born-and-raised West Michigander. She wants to use her writing expertise to make sure the stories of Michigan reach far and wide across the Mitten and beyond.

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