Where We Stand | Equitas Health

Equitas Health works at the local, state, and national level to back policies that support healthy communities.

We know that our patients’ lives stretch beyond the walls of our medical centers. As a result, our public policy and advocacy work focuses on many intersectional needs. We fight for low-cost and non-discriminatory healthcare, an end to the HIV epidemic, legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, gender affirming healthcare, racial justice in public safety, and much more.

From the battle to save the Affordable Care Act to condemning so-called “Don’t Say Gay/Trans/Race” laws, we fight for what is right for our patients, our clients, and our broader community.

Below, you can read about a few of the many ways that we fight for justice via public policy and advocacy.

Public Policy Priorities

We prioritize advocating for policies that are rooted in the pursuit of health justice. Learn more.

Voting Rights Center

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Equitas Health External Affairs

Public Statements, Policy Briefs, and Public Comments

On Mar. 18 and Mar. 21, the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services and the Ohio Department of Health will host public hearings for the proposed, revised administrative rules. Equitas Health submitted public comments against each proposal.

Read Full Comments – Revised MHAS proposal (PDF)

Read Full Comments – Revised ODH proposal (PDF)

On Feb. 7, 2024, after record-breaking numbers of public comments, the Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (MHAS) proposed revised administrative rules. Restrictions to adult care were removed, but adult reporting requirements remained, and the other portions of the proposal still targets transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and intersex youth. The MHAS reopened a shortened window for public comments, and Equitas Health submitted public comments against the proposal.

Read Full Comments – Rule 5122-14-12.1 & Rule 5122-26-19 (PDF)

n Jan. 5, 2024, Gov. DeWine proposed administrative rule changes that would all but ban gender affirming care for Ohioans of any age. The Ohio Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services (MHAS) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) outlined DeWine’s proposed administrative rule changes in separate proposals. The MHAS proposal included changes to Rule 5122-14-12 and the addition of Rule 5122-26-19; the ODH proposal included changes to multiple sets of existing rules.

Read Full Comments – Rule 5122-14-12 (PDF)

Read Full Comments – Rule 5122-26-19 (PDF)

Read Full Comments – Rules 3701-3-17; 3701-59-07; and 3701-83-61 (PDF)

We applaud the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) release of evidence-based guidelines linked to the use of doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis (DoxyPEP). DoxyPEP has been proven to lower the risk of bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by up to 70%. In response to the CDC’s request for comment on the proposed guidelines, we recommend the CDC:

  • Issue a non-discriminatory & evidence-based Final Guidance about DoxyPEP
  • Actively promote DoxyPEP’s use for STI prevention
  • Consult with LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS-focused community health centers in any future changes to the proposed rules
Read Full Comments and Recommendations

The DEA wants to require an in-person medical visit to get controlled substances like testosterone. While we understand the need for patients to have a relationship with their provider, we also know that telehealth options work! We want the DEA to recognize telehealth and to remove restrictions, specifically in the context of gender affirming care and intersex-related care.

Read Full Comments (PDF)

We rely on the 340B program to provide essential healthcare to the LGBTQ+ community and other communities that traditional healthcare systems have left out or kept out. We are concerned that the proposed changes to the 340B program could make it harder for the communities we serve to get the care they need.

Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health advocates for the rights and healthcare access of LGBTQ+ individuals and other at-risk communities. Here are some of our advocacy efforts in 2022:

  • Supporting House Bill 135
  • Promoting the Ohio Fairness Act
  • Advocating for transgender inclusion
  • Protecting gender-affirming care, championing student rights
  • Safeguarding Section 1557 of the ACA
  • Enhancing Title IX protections
  • Ensuring equitable ARPA fund distribution
  • Maintaining social work standards
  • Expanding access to the Mpox vaccine.
Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health vehemently opposes Ohio House Bill (HB) 616. HB 616 restricts teachers from discussing sexual orientation, gender identity, and certain concepts related to race, including Critical Race Theory and the 1619 Project. We condemn any attempt to perpetuate racism, white supremacy, homophobia, and transphobia. HB 616 also threatens teachers’ licenses, school funding, and the education of students. We encourage everyone to contact their state representatives to prevent this harmful legislation from becoming law.

Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health is proud to be a member of the Ohio HIV Modernization Movement (OHMM). During the COVID-19 pandemic, OHMM advocated for proactive public health strategies in prisons and jails, where environmental conditions amplify the risk of infectious disease transmission, such as:

  • The immediate release of non-violent, high-risk individuals
  • Reducing incarcerated populations
  • Ceasing arrests for certain offenses
  • Working with public health departments to protect the health and safety of immunocompromised individuals, officers, and staff.
Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health reports on the ongoing opioid epidemic in Ohio. Our report notes the rise in overdose deaths, particularly in 2020. It also calls out the differences in the overdose death rates of urban and rural areas, as well as white and Black populations. We call for the following:

  • Tearing down the structural and systematic racism in addiction response
  • Centering Black leaders
  • Reforming policies
  • Increasing access to treatment and harm reduction services
  • Addressing addiction stigma to effectively combat the overdose epidemic
Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health acknowledges that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black Americans is due to institutional racism in housing, employment, education, healthcare, and environmental protection. We call for systematic solutions to reduce racial health disparities, including:

  • Support for local Black-led interventions,
  • Addressing systemic racism
  • Confronting implicit bias in healthcare provision
  • Advocating for universal access to healthcare to address the historic and systemic injustices affecting Black communities.
Read Full Statement (PDF)

The conviction of George Floyd’s murderer (former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin) represents a victory for racial justice. It does not erase the centuries of systemic racism and white supremacy embedded in our criminal justice system. Floyd’s murder ignited a global movement in the fight to end racism. One year later, we ask ourselves what our role will be in creating a more just and equitable society.

Read Full Statement (PDF)

Equitas Health strongly supports the proposed “Nondiscrimination in Health Programs and Activities” rule. This rule enacts Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. Section 1557 ensures access to healthcare and coverage for all. We push for its adoption with suggested changes, such as extending protections to non-health programs, ensuring consistent language regarding sex discrimination, and strengthening notice requirements.

Read Full Statement (PDF)

Dr. Rhea Debussy, director of External Affairs for Equitas Health, testified before the Ohio State Board of Education in opposition of the proposed “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies.” Her testimony emphasized the dangers of the resolution to transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and intersex youth and the importance of equity and inclusion. Dr. Debussy also urged the Board to reject the resolution in alignment with the Ohio Department of Education’s strategic plan, “Each Child, Our Future.”

Read Full Testimony (PDF)

Dr. Rhea Debussy, director of External Affairs for Equitas Health, testified for the fourth time before the Ohio State Board of Education, opposing the proposed “Resolution to Support Parents, Schools, and Districts in Rejecting Harmful, Coercive, and Burdensome Gender Identity Policies.” Dr. Debussy continued to call upon the Board to reject the resolution, which conflicts with the Ohio Department of Education’s strategic plan, “Each Child, Our Future.” Her testimony cited data on the negative impact on LGBTQ+ youth. Dr. Debussy also emphasized the importance of equity and inclusion and the resolution’s failure to protect transgender, non-binary, gender expansive, and intersex students.

Read Full Testimony (PDF)

Equitas Health External Affairs

Recent Blog Posts from Our Department

Trans Day of Visibility celebrates the accomplishments of the transgender and gender non-conforming people in our communities. It also invites us to recognize how hard they fought – and continue to fight – for every one of them.

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HIV Prevention and treatment choices have improved dramatically in recent years. Meds – like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) – are very good at stopping HIV. Ohioans can visit OHIV.org to learn more about PrEP and PEP. They can also get help finding doctors and nurses who prescribe PrEP and PEP and apply for programs that pay for PrEP.

Read More

In November, Equitas Health signed a letter with the Drug Policy Alliance in support of federal legislation that decriminalizes the possession of personal-use amounts of drugs. As the Community Relations Manager for Harm Reduction in the Department of External Affairs, I urged Equitas Health to join the more than 150 organizations in signing the letter.

Read More

Once again, transgender students and their families and allies made their way to the Ohio State Board of Education last month to plead for their humanity. And once again, the opposition showed up, looking for that humanity to be denied.

Read More

My first time going to the Ohio State Board of Education in early October was nerve-wracking to say the least. Outside, there were supportive protesters. Inside, allies, trans-identified humans, and religious conservatives filled the lobby. I watched a large group pray for the defeat of the “trans agenda.”

Read More

In my role as Director of External Affairs at Equitas Health, a lot of transgender, non-binary, and gender expansive folks have been asking me about mpox (MPX). Many of my colleagues here and at other community organizations have noticed the same thing.

To help answer these common questions, I sat down with Teagan Vaughn, PharmD, RPh, AAHIVP (She/Her). Teagan is the Director of Gender Affirming Care and a clinical pharmacist at Equitas Health.

Read More

In August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that would bar discrimination in federally funded healthcare settings on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. While Equitas Health applauds these added protections, we told the government that we think the rule should go even further.

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Annually recognized in July to mark the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990, Disability Pride Month is a time to celebrate people with disabilities. It’s also a time to actively celebrate this community’s identities and cultures, while also recognizing the contributions that people with disabilities have made and continue to make to our society.

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The mpox emergency is a threat to public health. In early August, Equitas Health joined over 150 LGBTQ+ organizations in a call for greater action from the government. Led by CenterLink, the organizations sent the CDC a letter on behalf of LGBTQ+ people across the country.

Read More

Early this summer, Equitas Health promised to review proposed changes to Title IX regulations. The 50-year-old law bans sex discrimination and sexual harassment in school programs that get federal aid.

A new rule was introduced by the Biden administration in June, and it’s working to renew and strengthen protections for LGBTQ+ students, women and girls of color, and pregnant and parenting students. These regulations will replace a Trump-era rule that reduced protections for students and made it harder for survivors of assault to file a report.

Read More

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