Patients at the Babs Siperstein PROUD Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Somerset, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, now have access to behavioral health services with a therapist dedicated to working with members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Kim Keyes, LCSW, an outpatient behavioral health therapist, has 18 years of experience as a social worker helping children and families.
RWJUH Somerset was the first hospital in New Jersey to offer specialized primary care services for the LGBTQ+ community. The Babs Siperstein PROUD Center, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, offers hormone therapy and monitoring, HIV care, health education, counseling, support groups and referrals for specialty services.
“I’ve always had a special interest in working with the LGBTQ+ community but recently decided to become more professionally involved as I have a close family member who identifies as transgender,” Keyes said. “I’m here to help support members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout their journey, from exploring gender identity or sexual orientation to coming out to their friends and family and learning to live fully as their true selves, which may include developing coping skills or ways to build their personal support network. This is a safe space where they can find understanding and acceptance and develop a plan to address the unique challenges they face.”
Coping with stigma, prejudice and discrimination can contribute to higher incidences of mental health issues among the LGBTQ+ community, Keyes says.
“The transitioning process can be very stressful for transgender individuals. They are worried about how to tell others and what their reaction will be as well as anxious about starting hormone replacement therapy and considering surgical options,” she says. “Talking it through with someone who is supportive helps them develop healthy coping skills.”
RWJUH Somerset has been nationally recognized for providing culturally competent care and reducing health care disparities. The Human Rights Campaign has honored the hospital as a Leader in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality seven years in a row.