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State grant brings Peoria gender-affirming care options to the 'next level'

The exterior of the distinctive future home of the Central Illinois Friends LGBTQ+ Community Center and Clinic on War Memorial Drive.
Collin Schopp
The exterior of the distinctive future home of the Central Illinois Friends LGBTQ+ Community Center and Clinic on War Memorial Drive in Peoria.

A new grant expands the gender-affirming care capabilities of nonprofit organizations across Illinois, including Peoria’s Central Illinois Friends.

The joint grant between the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Public Health Institute of Metropolitan Chicago includes funding for 15 different organizations. The nonprofit LGBTQ+ clinic and community group Central Illinois Friends will receive $250,000.

“The grant is designed to help train providers,” said Selena Pappas, the group’s public relations and marketing manager. “So that would be anyone who would be interacting with trans patients in a medical sense.”

Pappas said the training aims to help medical professionals better understand and navigate the challenges and needs transgender people encounter when getting treatment.

“Very often when transgender folks try to access care, be it gender-affirming care or just general medical care, they often run into medical providers who either aren’t fully equipped to handle their needs or are just straight up not interested in helping them,” she said.

Central Illinois Friends also will hire a “trans health navigator,” a new position specifically to assist transgender people in finding appropriate care and other providers who are trans-friendly.

Pappas describes the grant as bringing the organization’s transgender health care options “to the next level.” It includes the launch of a new program, in the form of affirmative counseling available in partnership with Peoria-based counseling organization Whole Life Solutions.

“A lot of times trans folks are looking to access care and it’s really difficult for them,” Pappas said. “So this fund, the funding from this grant, will really help us set the standard of care that our trans clients need and deserve.”

This all happens as Central Illinois Friends prepares to open its new community center and clinic location just off War Memorial Drive later this summer.

“It really is a match made in heaven,” Pappas said. “It helps us to really solidify the vision for what this building is going to be and what it will mean to our community.”

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.