The House approved a bill Monday that would establish a health and human services network to assess the needs of the LGBTQ community and make recommendations to the state about how to build a safer, healthier environment for them.
Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan, D-Bethel, who introduced the bill, told legislators that the LGBTQ population has not been served well and “it’s our job to ensure that we’re doing as much as we can to address that need.”
Allie-Brennan provided the House with statistics that paint a grim picture, noting that 23 percent of Connecticut’s homeless youth is LGBTQ, that 22 percent of LGBTQ people report being food insecure and, he said, a similar percentage have incomes of less than $24,000.
During a hearing on the bill in March, advocates recounted their experiences with LGBTQ youth who were homeless because they had been rejected by their families. They also pointed to high suicide rates among this population, and the difficulty they experience finding doctors and other service providers who are sensitive to their needs.
Those testifying also emphasized that while some areas of the state have an array of services attuned to the needs of the LGBTQ community, others parts of the state have very little.
An earlier version of the bill included an appropriation of $250,000 to complete the assessment and to provide seed grants to help establish needed programs and services in certain parts of the state. The network would consist of representatives from more than a dozen health and human service non-profit agencies as well as some state agencies.
The bill that was approved by the House on Monday says it is to be funded “within the available appropriation,” said Rep. Jeff Currey, D-East Hartford, another key proponent of the bill, “but we’ve gotten the commitment that [the $250,000] will be included in the final budget package.”
The bill passed with a vote of 130 to 6, with every Democrat voting in favor of it.
Among those voting against it were Rep. Doug Dubitsky, R-Chaplin, who questioned the need for the network.
“Are the needs of people of a certain sexual orientation different from the needs of other people?” Dubitsky asked.
Allie-Brennan emphasized that the LGBTQ community has not consistently received the services it needs. “That’s why we want to find out what the needs are through this bill to make sure that population has a strong voice and that they feel like their government is representing them.”
Rep. Terrie Wood, R-Darien, who is a member of the human services committee which heard testimony on the bill in March, said during House discussion on the bill that she is convinced the network is necessary.
“It’s clear this is an area of need in our state,” Wood said. “I absolutely support the spirit of this legislation and the intent of it, and I believe it’s a vulnerable population that we need to open our hearts to and figure out how we can close the gaps on some of these needs and embrace them with great humanity.”
The bill now goes to the Senate.