From Sidewalk Chat to Dedicated LGBTQ+ Facility: The Equitas Health Institute Is Making Healthcare More Accessible for LGBTQ+ Patients

Equitas Health Institute LogoThe Equitas Health Institute exists to combat health disparities/inequities afflicting the LGBTQ+ community, create more welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ+ folks, and help institutions serve the unmet needs of this marginalized population. Our ongoing partnership with SUN Behavioral Columbus is a remarkable example of how we carry out our mission.

Here’s the story of how a sidewalk conversation at Pride developed into Ohio’s first in-patient mental healthcare unit specifically for the LGBTQ+ population.  

Our Director, Julia Applegate, first met officials from SUN Behavioral Columbus while conducting outreach at the 2017 Columbus Pride Festival. They were immediately moved by Julia’s suggestion that SUN could not only improve service to their existing LGBTQ+ patients, but also become a resource and destination for LGBTQ+ folks in need of in-patient mental health services.

Like many organizations, SUN Behavioral initially contracted the Institute to conduct a series of trainings for all levels of staff on LGBTQ+ Cultural Humility Best Practices facilitated by our Lead Trainer Ramona Peel. The organization’s leaders were so compelled by what they learned, they invited that Julie, Ramona, and Education Manager Zoe E.R. Fawcett to engage with them in a series of brainstorming sessions. Out of these sessions arose the desire to open Aurora, a dedicated wing for LGBTQ+ patients.

But the SUN Behavioral team knew that a brilliant vision and name were not enough, so they hired the Institute to guide the development of the wing and ensure that everything from physical space and visual cues, to medical forms and organizational procedures promotes a welcoming and therapeutic environment for LGBTQ+ patients.

On December 10, SUN Behavioral opened its new wing, Aurora—a truly remarkable advancement in healthcare for the LGBTQ+ community, which experiences mental illness at a disproportionately high rate.

But the work is not done.

The Equitas Health Insitute will continue training current staff and new hires in monthly sessions over the course of the next year, in addition to advising the development of their outreach materials. And it will be with complete confidence that we feature SUN Behavioral in the next addition of our Ohio LGBTQ+ Health Provider Guide.

We are thrilled that SUN Behavioral has created a safe harbor for LGBTQ+ people in need of mental health services and proud to have been part of its conception and development.

Learn how the Institute can help your organization or company improve its service to the LGBTQ+ community, find us at