“Our state-wide service has seen extraordinary growth during a very challenging year with COVID-19 and we are proud of our achievements. We have supported community members with their essential health needs and also increased employment for community members in professional roles,” said Your Community Health Chief Executive Officer, Phillip Bain.

Last week was Transgender Awareness week which celebrated the trans and gender diverse community. In the lead up to the week were changes made for the trans and gender diverse community in rural locations to ensure that they are supported for health and other related services. 

Over 2000 appointments have been provided to trans, gender diverse and non-binary Victorians from a new model of inclusive, gender-affirming health service. November 22 2020 marked one year since the launch of the Victorian Trans and Gender Diverse Health Service and its two multidisciplinary clinics based in Preston and Ballarat. 

The program has been designed to improve health access and outcomes for the trans and gender diverse community who are adults in Victoria, throughout a statewide bulk-billed delivery service. 

It is a  service that has been designed to be able to support some of the most isolated Victorians living in regional and remote areas of Victoria by utilising a mixture of telehealth and outreach clinics. Clients have also benefited from reduced wait times compared to common experiences at other clinics 

 A trans person from regional Victoria Charlotte Almond said, “I first tried to access health care while living in Geelong but hit a few roadblocks. Once I moved regionally I pretty much knew any health care would need to come from a more metro setting and I was happy to travel for that. I heard about Your Community Health through a trans support Facebook group. I filled out their online form and was contacted within 48 hours by their peer navigator. Following that I had my initial appointment via telehealth a few days later. I have now been using the services of Your Community Health since September and everyone I have had dealings with has been fantastic and so supportive. So while I was not able to access local trans healthcare I am super grateful I got in touch with Your Community Health. Through other channels I looked into, trying to access health care appeared challenging and confusing but the support of YCH really made everything straightforward and much less anxiety inducing.

“I think that one of the positives of COVID is many of these services had to adopt an online or phone way of delivering care. This has allowed for people such as myself to access healthcare when they may not have it locally available. I think in the future it would be great to see more GP’s being trained on how to identify and understand gender incongruence/dysphoria especially in regional communities. This way even if services may not be locally available patients can be assured of how and where to receive gender affirming care. In an ideal world local services would always be preferred but where funding is limited at least giving our doctors the necessary tool kit to diagnose effectively would go a long way.”

Leading the new program is Your Community Health, in partnership with Austin Health, Ballarat Community Health and Thorne Harbour Health, and funded by the Victorian Government. Services include peer navigation, general practice, hormone therapy initiation, counselling, endocrinology, nursing, peer support and referral into broader community health services such as allied health and dental. 

Project manager Jeremy Wiggins said, “our Peer Navigators are the concierge of our health service, they greet and welcome our valued clients, provide them with information, referral and support and continue to be available for follow up appointments.

“This level of support is unprecedented and absolutely necessary for our communities who often experience multiple barriers in accessing quality healthcare. I often get phone calls from our clients who tell me personally that our service has literally saved their life. There is no doubt in my mind that this Victorian service is providing lifesaving health care.”

Health services like these seem to be changing the lives of people who require support for a number of reasons throughout their journey.

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