“The Gateway” Newsletter – July 2018

MEET OUR PROVIDER: Sarah Fortin, Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner at King-Lincoln Medical Center

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Sarah Fortin, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC joined our King-Lincoln Medical Center team in April. Sarah enjoys collaborating with other providers to ensure a patient-centered approach to mental and physical health. Read on for a short Q & A about Sarah’s background, experience, and passions.

Q: What brought you to Equitas Health?

A: I came to Equitas Health because I wanted to work in an integrated care clinic. I’d heard from friends who work or access services at Equitas Health that it is a good working environment. I also like the idea of practicing in a clinic that offers equal access care to all patients.

Q: What has surprised you most since starting work at Equitas Health?

A: I’m impressed with the amount of support we provide patients, especially by our support staff. I know a number of clients that come in just to talk to employees here because they feel safe and welcome – it is incredible to see patients feel so comfortable in a healthcare setting!

Q: What services can Psychiatric Nurse Practitioners provide?

A: We provide psychiatric evaluations in which we can diagnose mental health illnesses, prescribe medications, and make treatment recommendations. If the client’s primary care provider (PCP) is at Equitas Health, our goal is to transfer all care back to their PCP once symptoms are stable or resolved. Clients are certainly welcome to come back to see me should they, or their PCP, feel it is necessary.

Q: Do you have a particular expertise, interest, or passion within your field?

A: I truly enjoy working with clients who have suffered trauma and are experiencing symptoms of PTSD. It usually requires a multidisciplinary treatment plan that involves working with client’s counselors, and I enjoy working with other teammates to help clients. PTSD is also one of the diagnoses that we can see results in fairly quickly if the client follows the treatment plan, and it’s rewarding to see individuals who were suffering from sometimes debilitating symptoms take their lives back.

Q: Is there a particular group (or groups) you want to encourage to seek your services?

A: I speak Spanish fluently, and there aren’t many psychiatric providers in the area that do. I would encourage Spanish speakers seeking psychiatric care services to come and see me! Asi que, si hablan solamente español y necesitan servicios psiquiatricos, por favor llamar la clinica para hacer una cita conmigo.

Q: What are three things (that don’t have to do with healthcare) we might be interested to know about you?

A: I’m a Badger – On Wisconsin!

I have toddler twin boys.

I worked in marketing and communications before I became a nurse practitioner.

ADVOCACY | Doubling Down on the Fight for Our Lives

Pride2018-Logo SquareThe summer of 2018, like the previous year and a half, has felt like a constant attack on so much of what we value: inclusivity, access to care, and basic control of our identities, our bodies, and our families.

On a national level, we have seen xenophobic immigration policy—which we know acutely affects LGBTQ asylum seekers—implemented by the executive branch and upheld by the Supreme Court. Grave threats to abortion access loom. The Trump Administration’s recent decision to withhold the funds that make health insurance premiums affordable for people living with HIV and other chronic health conditions leaves many in our community worrying about the health stability they only recently gained. Meanwhile in Ohio, the Legislature is trying to pass a bill that would require teachers to “out” transgender students, and a Warren County judge has just ruled that a fifteen-year-old trans boy and his supportive parents’ petition to change his name is not “in the best interest of the child.”

As the continued attacks on our health and safety mount, we at Equitas Health recognize that we must double down on our public policy and advocacy efforts just to hold onto what’s left of the gains we’ve fought so hard for. This year Equitas Health has committed to intensifying our efforts to preserve marriage equality, reproductive freedom, transgender rights, and access to healthcare regardless of pre-existing conditions.

We know that many of you take action daily, steadfast in your commitment to withstand the constant backlash. You call your legislators, rally in the streets, volunteer for candidates who pledge to support the most vulnerable among us.

As you consider the ways you will continue to take action, we ask you to consider financially supporting our increased advocacy efforts.

Your gift to Equitas Health helps us educate elected officials in Columbus and Washington, DC, on the issues at the heart of our mission. The work we do this summer is critical heading into November, and we are getting closer to our goal of $10,000 by the end of the summer to fund these initiatives. Will you help us get there with a donation today?

We thank you for your contribution to this fight and take pride in working alongside you.


PRIMARY CARE | Equitas Health and CCAD Form Historic Partnership

Equitas Health is proud to announce a new partnership with Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD). Beginning this fall, our King-Lincoln Medical Center and Pharmacy will serve as CCAD’s preferred provider of primary care and health services for its students.

Located a half mile from CCAD’s campus, students will have the ability to access care prior to an emergency and avoid costly emergency room services. The partnership will also ease the strain on Grant Hospital’s emergency services, which students often use for minor medical conditions treatable in a primary care setting.

As one of the largest providers of LGBTQ healthcare in the country, Equitas Health is particularly suited to offer culturally relevant healthcare to the CCAD student population. According to a recent CCAD survey, more than thirty-five percent of students identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer. Our comprehensive care model will ensure that students can access primary care, specialized LGBTQ care, trans health services, specialized HIV care, STI testing and treatment, dental, behavioral health, medical case management and pharmacy services in one location. Services are offered on a sliding-fee scale based on income.

In June, Equitas Health staff introduced students to King-Lincoln’s services during first-year orientation. We look forward to welcoming the incoming class to the Medical Center and Pharmacy when they arrive in the fall.

CCAD has an undergraduate enrollment of 1,050 students with approximately 300 first-year students. Equitas Health’s King-Lincoln location opened in May of 2017 and is located in the King-Lincoln Gateway building at 750 E. Long Street.

THE INSTITUTE | I Deserve Access to a Mammogram Campaign Launched

Do trans women need mammograms? How about post-top-surgery trans men? And why do cisgender lesbians have a higher risk of breast cancer than straight women? These are some of the questions the Equitas Health Institute for LGBTQ Health Equity’s statewide public health campaign, I Deserve Access to a Mammogram, addresses.

The campaign, funded by a two-year contract from the Ohio Department of Health, has two audiences: mammography staff and lesbian, bisexual, trans, and non-binary people with breast tissue. To date, the Institute team has trained staff at seven provider systems in Akron, Columbus, Dayton, Lancaster, Middletown, and Toledo in cultural humility and structural competency practices.

Research shows that due to past negative experiences with healthcare providers LGBTQ people tend to delay regular health screenings, which results in later stage cancer diagnoses. “So far the mammography staff we have worked with have been eager to learn,” said Institute Education Manager Karen Nicosia. “They want to be accessible and are eager for practical changes that will make their facilities and services more comfortable to LGBTQ folks.”

The Institute sought funding to produce a campaign that would promote lesbian, bisexual, trans, and non-binary breast and chest health in part because many LGBTQ people are newly insured and have access to free preventative care, thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The number of Ohioans without health insurance decreased by about 50% between 2013 and 2016. “The majority of the newly insured are single, childless adults,” Nicosia explained. “Self-employed folks, members of the creative economy, people who piece together part time jobs or work in sectors that don’t provide insurance, people who were previously excluded due to a pre-existing condition, people who don’t have access to a spouse’s health insurance plan. LGBTQ folks are over-represented in all those categories.”

Now that so many more LGBTQ folks have insurance, the Institute wants to make sure people understand preventative care guidelines and have access to providers who will offer them culturally and medically relevant services.

The I Deserve Access to a Mammogram campaign—which currently consists of social media ads, educational pamphlets, an informational website, and in-person outreach efforts—educates about who needs mammography and chest wall exams, how to schedule them, and how to access insurance for preventative care. Additionally, the campaign addresses the particular risks and guidelines relevant to the breast and chest health of various sexual orientation and gender identities.

“There are no biological differences that put LGBTQ people at risk of breast cancer, but factors like discrimination, stigma, and isolation do impact health outcomes in our community,” Nicosia noted. “Lesbians and bisexual women need to know that they may be at a higher risk of breast cancer if they haven’t given birth or breast fed. Trans women over age 50 need to know that once they’ve been on hormone replacement therapy for five years, they should start having mammograms, and trans men and non-binary folks need to know that top surgery is different than a double mastectomy,” Nicosia said. She explained that where a mastectomy aims to remove all breast tissue, surgeons use breast tissue as they reconstruct the chest during top surgery. “So to the recommendations are that post-top-surgery people over 44 should have chest wall exams annually,” Nicosia said.

Finally, the Institute team hopes to reach people who feel ambivalent or dysphoric about their breasts. “For many people, particularly non-binary folks and trans men who have not had top surgery, the curves of their chest can feel like a betrayal—their body telling a lie about who they are. Getting a mammogram is one more instance of that pain,” Nicosia explained. Through social media ads and outreach materials aimed at trans men and non-binary people, the campaign seeks to acknowledge the conflict between physical and mental health that a mammogram presents, and help people overcome that barrier to preventative care.

ADVOCACY | What’s 340B? And What Are We Doing to Preserve It?

The 340B Drug Discount Program enables “Covered Entities” – including Ryan White Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers – to stretch scarce federal resources as far as possible, reaching more eligible patients and providing more comprehensive services. The way the program works is that Covered Entities like Equitas Health purchase certain outpatient drugs at a significantly discounted price, and sell the drugs at retail price. Under federal law, Covered Entities are allowed to keep the savings and reinvest it in programs and administration. For example at Equitas Health, 340B covers 38% of Dental Services costs and 35% of Prevention and Behavioral Health costs.

“Like health centers across the country, Equitas Health depends on the 340B Program to offset the cost of our services to thousands of Ohioans,” says Equitas Health President and CEO Bill Hardy.

Recently, legislators in Washington, DC, have been scrutinizing the 340B program, claiming that lax program oversight has allowed the program to grow too much and become too costly. A recent flurry of activity, including congressional hearings and introduction of several bills, is aimed at clamping down on the program. Most efforts are focused on hospitals, not Ryan White clinics or Federally Qualified Health Centers.

Equitas Health is working closely with several policy coalitions at the national level to fight these untrue allegations about the program’s integrity. This month, Aaron Clark, Chief Pharmacy Officer, and Trent Stechschulte, Compliance Officer and Legal Counsel, made visits to Capitol Hill to urge lawmakers to leave the program untouched. Additionally, Mikayla Robinson, Mozaic Engagement Specialist, filmed a clip for the Faces of 340B campaign, sharing her story of how the 340B program impacts her life and career.


COMMUNITY PROGRAMS | Final Summer for Camp Sunrise

July 29 through August 4, Camp Sunrise staff, volunteers, and campers will gather for the final week of Camp Sunrise. Children living with or impacted by HIV/AIDS have been building summer memories at Camp Sunrise since it was founded in 1994. In 2014, Equitas Health (then AIDS Resource Center Ohio) helped Camp Sunrise continue by welcoming the camp to its statewide network. But along with the success of nearly-eradicated mother-to-child transmission of HIV, comes the decline in the feasibility of running a camp solely devoted to serving children living with the disease. During the last two summers only six and four HIV-positive campers attended the week-long camp.

While we are thrilled with this milestone, we recognize that those children who do live with HIV are no less in need of this unique camp experience.  We are therefore pleased to announce that Flying Horse Farms, a member of the Serious Fun Children’s Network, has agreed to include a week of camp for children living with HIV/AIDS to their camp schedule beginning in 2019.

Flying Horse Farms provides magical, transformative camp experiences for children ages 8 – 17 with serious illnesses and their families – free of charge. Located in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, the camp first opened its gates in 2010 and hosts about 900 children and families each year. The Flying Horse Farms team is committed to maintaining the vibrant sense of community Camp Sunrise has inspired all these years and welcomes Camp Sunrise participants, families, volunteers, and staff to recreate their community in a new home.

In celebration of Camp Sunrise’s legacy, former campers, counselors, and volunteers will join this year’s campers for a reunion celebration at 6PM on Wednesday, August 1 at Recreation Unlimited in Ashley, Ohio.  If you would like to attend the reunion, please contact



BEHAVIORAL HEALTH | Psychiatric Team Expanded to Dayton

The Equitas Health Behavioral Health team now offers psychiatric services in Columbus and Dayton. With two new psychiatric nurse practitioners—Sondra Butler, RN, MSN, NP-C (pictured here) in Dayton and Sarah Fortin, MSN, APRN, PMHNP-BC in Columbus—joining Justin Kerr, PMHNP, also in Columbus, we are proud to accept public and private insurance as well as offer sliding scale fees for psychiatric services at all three of our medical centers. For referral and appointment scheduling questions, contact one of our medical centers.

COMMUNITY OUTREACH | Still Celebrating with Pride

So far this summer we have celebrated with you in Athens, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lancaster, Newark, Portsmouth, Yellow Springs, and Youngstown. We’ve dawned our beads, danced to remixes, and given out thousands of band-aids and sunglasses. But what we love most about Pride is the opportunity to meet so many people from around the state and hear your healthcare stories. Getting to know you helps us serve you better. We look forward to celebrating with more of you at upcoming festivals:

AUG 4 | Mansfield

AUG 18 | Toledo

AUG 25 | Akron

SEP 1-2 | Black Family Pride (Akron)


PREVENTION | Safe Point Funding Secured!

We are thankful to the City of Columbus and Franklin County for stepping up funding of our Safe Point program which provides clean syringes and health services to IV drug users in Columbus. Serving people with substance use disorders through harm reduction services is exactly the kind of compassionate, effective, and research-based leadership the opioid crisis requires of our elected officials. We are confident that together we will identify a renewable funding source for this life-saving work within the coming year.


Thank you to everyone who participated in the Central Ohio, Dayton, and Toledo Ohio AIDS Walks this spring and summer. Together you raised $269,639 for AIDS service organizations across the state, including Equitas Health, Camp Sunrise, Nationwide Children’s Hospital FACES Program, the Ohio AIDS Coalition, and the OSU Wexner Medical Center AIDS Clinical Trials Unit. Though lightning cracked in Dayton and rain refused to hold off in Toledo, you showed up because you care about quality, life-affirming healthcare and game-changing research.  A special shout out to the top fundraisers in each city: Rajesh Lohoti, Deb King, and Katherine Yantis-Houser. Your commitment to the cause will keep us working until we walk again in 2019.



Name & Gender Change Clinics

Cleveland | AUG 15 | 6-8PM | ACLU of Ohio
Athens | AUG 29 | 6-8PM | Ohio University LGBT Center
Marietta | SEP 11 | 6-8PM | First Universalist Society of Marietta
Dayton | SEP 26 | 6-8PM | Equitas Health

Trained attorneys provide one-on-one counseling to walk you through the process of updating your identity documents during these FREE Legal Clinics. Registration is preferred: call 614-340-6729 or email


Masquerage Theme Release Party

Dayton | AUG 24 | 6-8 PM | Dayton Racquet Club

Join Equitas Health and the Dayton Associate Board as we announce the theme for Masquerage 2018! Be there for the big reveal at this exclusive party featuring performances and specialty cocktails procured by The Rubi Girls. Buy your ticket today.


Midwest Comedy Queer Comedy Festival to Benefit Equitas Health

Columbus | AUG 22-26 | Various Venues

The Midwest Comedy Fest is just a month away. Check out their list of performers and venues and buy your tickets today! Equitas Health is grateful to be the recipient of festival proceeds, which means you’ll be laughing responsibly all week long!



Art for Life

Columbus | SEP 15 | 8PM | Columbus Museum of Art

Art for Life, our biennial art auction, has helped raise awareness and over $3 million in funding for HIV/AIDS medical care, prevention, education, testing, and advocacy services since 1989. The event is not only a celebration of the arts community and Equitas Health’s life-saving work, but also a celebration of life and the artists who enrich it. This year Art for Life will return to the Columbus Museum of Art in the Margaret M. Walter Wing. Purchase tickets or sign up to volunteer at the event now!



Columbus Dispatch: Cash-Strapped Needle Initiative Saved

6/29/2018 – The City of Columbus and Franklin County agree to increase funding for Equitas Health’s Safe Point program, which provided health services and clean syringes to 3,139 people last year. The funding will last through June 2019. Meanwhile Equitas Health and Harm Reduction Ohio continue to question an Ohio Department of Health decision to block local access to federal funding for syringe programs.

NBC4: On National HIV Testing Day, man living with virus stresses importance of knowing your status

6-27-2018 – “Your life is going to change but it doesn’t mean it’s going to change for the worst. HIV doesn’t have to be as scary as a lot of people think it is.” Equitas Health’s Devin Quinn and Dwayne Steward explain to NBC4 why knowing your HIV status makes all the difference.

Columbus Dispatch: Clean needle program for drug users is running out of money

6-14-2018 – Equitas Health asks elected official to make a financial commitment to clean needle access during the opioid crisis. “We have been funding the bulk of the program,” said Peggy Anderson, Equitas’ chief operating officer. “We are willing to fund a piece of it, but since it is a public health crisis, we feel it’s something our partners at the city and county should assist with.”

Smart Business: Equitas Health Thrives on Fulfilling Unmet Needs

5/25/2018 – Reporter Jayne Gest interviews Equitas Health President and CEO Bill Hardy about his vision to make LGBTQ-focused healthcare accessible to more Ohioans. “We’re responding to the community’s needs,” Hardy says. “We are obsessed with our mission. We are obsessed with remaining relevant.”

Columbus Underground: Equitas Health Mozaic Program to Open Facility for Transgender & Gender Non-Conforming Individuals

5/21/2018 – Mozaic Program Director Cory Frederick announces the impending opening of the Mozaic community space and explains why re-creating healthcare and prevention settings is essential to meeting the health needs of transgender and gender non-conforming people of color.