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New Study Aims to Improve Access to Care for the Youth LGBTQ+ Community

By Dr. Kelly Hill and Mallory Profeta

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 16, 2022) — A multidisciplinary team at the University of Kentucky has joined forces to improve medical and mental health services for the LGBTQ+ community.     

“We’ve seen an increase in patients who are transgender or gender nonconforming  admitted to the UK HealthCare inpatient adolescent behavioral health unit,” said UK HealthCare child and adolescent psychiatrist Kelly Hill.

Transgender or gender nonconforming  youth are at a significantly greater risk for depression, self-injurious behaviors and substance use compared to cisgender peers. To make matters worse, research shows that they have difficulty finding medical and mental health services where they feel comfortable and often postpone care due to multiple concerns, including discrimination. 

“These facts underscore the importance of better understanding the TGNC individual’s perspective and experiences so we can begin breaking down barriers to care,” Hill said.

Motivated by her work on the adolescent behavioral health unit, Hill pulled together a team of individuals who are passionate about improving access to health care for transgender or gender nonconforming individuals. The team includes TK Logan, from the Department of Behavioral Sciences; Hannah Johnson, from the College of Pharmacy; and graduate students from the College of Arts & Sciences. 

Together, they’ve launched a research project involving focus groups where TGNC youth can discuss their experiences with the health care system, what makes it hard for them to get the care they need, and ideas to improve medical and mental healthcare in their community. 

The focus groups are already helping to illuminate the distinct challenges transgender or gender nonconforming individuals face, as well as what’s been supportive (and at times life-saving). And with the help of the focus group participants, the UK team is devising strategies—some quick and low cost — to improve care for transgender or gender nonconforming populations.

The research team will hold more focus groups to amplify diverse voices from the transgender or gender nonconformingcommunity regarding your experiences with the health care system and how we can improve it. You may be eligible to participate if you are between 18 and 29, identify as transgender or gender-nonconforming and are interested in participating in a Zoom focus group to discuss what’s challenging, and what would be helpful when it comes to accessing health care.

Participants will be compensated with a $50 gift card upon completion of the study.

For more information, go to

This study is supported by a small grant from the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science and received development support from its TREE (Translating Ideas into REsEarch) Initiative.