The LGBTQ Center Long Beach is a nonprofit dedicated to advancing equity for LGBTQ people through culturally responsive advocacy, education, programs and services. They were initially founded in 1977 as an informal forum to discuss issues important to the LGBTQ community.
They were initially founded in 1977 as an informal forum to discuss issues important to the LGBTQ community. The organization was officially incorporated under the name One in Long Beach, Inc. in 1980. Since then, the Center has been providing a variety of health, social, advocacy and legal services to the LGBTQ community and has operated under its current name—The LGBTQ Center Long Beach—since 2014.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck North America in March of 2020, the Center was forced to begin providing services remotely, a transition that coincided with the rollout of Social Solutions’ case management software at the organization. Though the transition to remote care has limited the organization’s ability to provide their services in full, they’ve been able to develop innovative solutions, such as creating a drive-up/walk-up service for HIV testing in the organization’s parking lot.
We checked in with Ismael Salamanca, Director of Health Services at The LGBTQ Center Long Beach, to learn more about the program and how their case management software by Social Solutions has helped the organization adapt its service delivery and operations in the COVID era and beyond.
Ismael Salamanca: We got the program in 2018 and began using the database in the fall of 2019. We hadn’t really implemented all of the uses of the software until the quarantine was instituted in March [of 2020]. Working from home gave my team the time to scan and enter hard copy patient files into the database.
IS: Our mental health clinical director suggested that we look into an EMR or eDatabase to have a secure space to access our client files. We ended up choosing Social Solutions because of how multiple departments could access the same files and cross-reference presenting issues, concerns and program use.
The Center is one of the few holistic spaces that offer multiple services that work collaboratively. For example, youth services regularly send clients to HIV/STI Screening, so having this interface that allows us to communicate between workers in departments is very useful.
We are definitely learning as we transition into a digital platform for our client documents and have a lot to learn. We are eager to get this to 100 percent use across the agency.
Trying to find a way to offer services with low-to-no contact with patients has been essential, which is why Social Solution’s tools have shed some light on potential solutions during these new times.
IS: We serve a variety of clients with a variety of services, most taking place in person and in shared spaces. Unfortunately, the Center closed to the public on March 17, 2020, and since then, we have all been working remotely, and clients have not had complete access to one of the only LGBTQ safe and supportive spaces in Long Beach.
IS: Since we closed to the public, we do not have in-person mental health services and can only support those with access to smartphones with video chat functions. Support groups have gone digital, and again, they are only accessible to people with a computer or telephone. Other services like legal and domestic violence support have seen a spike in demand for help, yet we are limited with what we can and can’t do in person. My program, which needs face-to-face interaction, has been limited to drive-up and walk-up testing, starting with rapid HIV testing and hopefully, soon, STI Screening.
IS: For my program, Social Solutions has provided us a tool to be able to access a client’s medical file and send/receive screener forms and consent forms via email, ultimately reducing contact to paper, pens or even a shared tablet screen. Additionally, once open to the public for STI Screening, the intake function and connect option will support registration and provide clients with access to results.
IS: After we started learning more about COVID-19 and how the virus is transmitted, we started looking at how the Long Beach Health Department was offering coronavirus testing at schools, parking lots and their facility. In April 2020, we moved to protocol development mode and created a process to protect our clients and staff and prevent the spread of COVID-19. By late May, we were able to get started by offering testing on a drive-up/walk-up basis and focused on rapid HIV testing to start.
IS: Social Solutions helped transition from on-site to off-site testing by facilitating the process of digitizing forms and medical records. We were able to expand on the process we had in place to email patients their health assessment and consent forms, to also include having their results, previous history and reminders all in the same platform.
IS: To be honest, going from pen and paper to typing and logging in has been challenging, but having the accessibility to a client’s records on your computer, whether at home while working remotely or on a tablet when working on-site during drive-up and walk-up services, has been great. As of now, staff has begun getting used to using the software and are learning how to use it each day.
IS: Similarly, we are still getting some confusion on which forms to fill out: “How will you send them to me?” and “How do I sign them?” But, for the most part, it seems a lot easier, and the barrier we are working on is connecting with patients who do not have a smartphone or computer to complete the forms on.
IS: We are able to provide 20 HIV tests a week by only offering testing two days a week for a limited time. The program hopes to get back to full capacity, providing services six days a week and offering 150 to 200 tests a month.
IS: Success for us is accessing clients who are stigmatized in accessing services anywhere else. If we can create programming that can focus on transgender care and create an STI screening program that provides multi-site screening for LGBTQ people and is available during non-traditional hours, we have been successful. Obviously, reaching our contract goals is a success for us, but adapting to change and providing the information to our funders in a new way is why we look forward to working with Social Solutions on creating digital reports for our funders who require paper forms.
IS: Drive-up testing will continue to be part of our tool kit as an alternative option for testing during similar times or a creative approach to event testing. Telehealth will most definitely continue with us, as we have seen the benefits of interacting with clients that would be difficult to have on-site as often as needed. We have learned a lot during this health crisis, and my team is creating new possibilities to grow the program post-COVID-19.
IS: Small-to-medium nonprofits need as much support as we can get. Larger organizations like community clinics/hospitals and nonprofits with multimillion-dollar budgets can access programs similar to Social Solutions to run their programs efficiently.
Nonprofits like ours, who see clients that normally cannot access what I would call a “fancy organization” with digital forms, portals and touch screens, should be able to have similar care. That is why connecting with Social Solutions will allow us to continue to provide the care we offer, with the added benefit of being accessible during a time of keeping our distance and focusing on public health.
IS: Thank you. Thank you for helping us get to a new era of service provision that will not only take my program but the rest of our programs to the next level. We look forward to learning more about the reporting options as they relate to state and county funders and how we can continue to use Social Solutions to grow what we offer today.
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