Fifty Percent of LGBTQ Nashvillans Live in COVID-19 ‘Hotspot’

Webinar offers insight on COVID-19's impact to the Nashville LGBTQ community

More than 50% of LGBTQ Nashvillians are living in a “COVID-19” hotspot and more likely to be uninsured and living with mental distress

More than 50% of LGBTQ Nashvillians are living in a “COVID-19” hotspot and more likely to be uninsured and living with mental distress, according to a Vanderbilt University study that was presented during webinar on COVID-19 and its impact on the LGBTQ community.

Nancy VanReece
Nancy VanReece

The LGBTQ Caucus of the Metro Council and the office of Mayor John Cooper, hosted the webinar with Councilmember Nancy VanReece, chair of the Caucus, facilitating. Much of the content focused on older LGBTQ Nashvillian’s health.

“As a Caucus we recognize the overwhelming responsibility that we represent all residents in our individual districts but also the thousands that are in the Davidson County LGBTQ community,” VanReece told O&AN. “This is just one of our efforts to help share information.”

Participants of the panel included experts from Vanderbilt University, Nashville Cares, Launch Pad and Fifty Forward.

Two Vanderbilt University researchers talked about ongoing LGBTQ research in three different studies that focus on the LGBTQ community and health. Two of those studies are Nashville focused and one is nationally focused.

Tara McKay, Ph.D., Assistant Professor for the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, talked about an ongoing national study being conducted by the LGBT Policy Lab at Vanderbilt University, that was launched on April 10 to capture how the LGBTQ population feels about COVID-19 and health.

McKay said the research so far is showing the LGBTQ populations are more at risk to COVID-19 and have an increased risk of economic impact from the pandemic. She said many of those in the LGBTQ community work in the highly affected industries including health care and service industry.

She added that there is an increased risk of social impact and isolation, especially for older gay men who live alone. They potentially have no one to call upon if they do fall ill.

Her study was launched on April 10 to get a national snapshot of how the LGBTQ community was impacted by COVID-19. So far they have had responses from all 50 states and diverse group of ages and other demographics. The respondents are also concerned about how HIV may affect risk, treatment or recovery.

Gilbert Gonzales, PhD, MHA, Assistant Professor at the Center for Medicine, Health & Society, the Program for Public Policy Studies, and the Department of Health Policy at Vanderbilt University talked about the Nashville Health & Well-Being Survey that was conducted by the Metro Public Health Department.

Gonzales broke out data from that survey, which was conducted over the past year prior to COVID-19. He warned that the survey had low response and may not accurately reflect the population health.

The results showed that 6 to 8 percent of Nashvillians identify as LGBTQ, and, interestingly, more than 50 percent of LGBTQ Nashvillians live in a “hot spot” COVID-19 region. 81% are under 50 years of age; 59% are male; 30% make less than $25,000 a year and 46% are non-white.More than 50% of LGBTQ Nashvillians are living in a “COVID-19” hotspot and more likely to be uninsured and living with mental distress

Of those that responded and identified as LGBTQ:
30% uninsured
36% frequent mental distress
29% have a chronic disease

The final health study presentation was on a study called “VUSNAPS” which is a social network, aging, and policy study of older LGBTQ Tennesseans.

The VUSNAPS study is currently recruiting 1,150 older LGBTQ community members. With 134 Tennesseans already enrolled, the early results (April 1 to May 4) show that 98% of older LGBT Tennesseans have been financially and socially impacted by COVID-19.

“The study is not representative because of the low number of participants so far,” McKay said. “But it helps put the study in some context”.

Gretchen Funk, Chief Program Officer for FiftyForward, gave an overview of FiftyForward and the services that it provides to older Nashvillians.

FiftyForward, founded in 1956, is a leading resource for adults 50+ in Middle Tennessee. The agency has seven locations in Davidson and Williamson Counties and provides a variety of social services.

Funk said Fifty Forward had spent the last 18 months engaged as an agency with an intense look to determine what those needs were in the older LGBTQ community.

She said the group had been working with Nashville Pride and will be coming forward soon with recommendations on services needed by the older Nashville LGBTQ community.

“We want to offer us as a partner and help meet your needs and connect to services,” she said.

If you are over 50 and need assistance during the COVID-19 emergency, you can call the FiftyForward Resource Line at 615-743-3416. It is staffed 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Friday or you can email [email protected]

Jasper Hendricks, Director of Advocacy and Public Policy, Nashville CARES, discussed the services Nashville Cares provides in Davidson and 16 surrounding counties.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on how his agency provides services and on their finances. He said Nashville Cares has given out more than $250,000 given for financial assistance – that figure is more than five times the amount given out over the same time period last year.

“Our clients are really feeling the impact,” he said.

Hendricks also said that Nashville Cares continues to offer HIV testing via a mailed home kit, free of charge, and that telehealth counseling is available. You can call 1-800-845-4266 for assistance.

Rose Marie Pink, board president, Nashville Launch Pad, wrapped up the webinar by discussing COVID-19 and its impact on the Nashville LGBTQI homelessness population.

Launch Pad is a volunteer-based initiative that provides street free sleep to youth between the ages of 18-24 and are “affirming and welcoming to LGBTQ youth.”

Pink said they have been forced to change their operations significantly since COVID-19. They have extended their housing season (normally Nov. 1 to March 31) and have changed from the congregate shelter model to providing more of an “extended stay hotel” operation, which is safer for everyone.

“It’s a very big and expensive undertaking,” she said.

“We appreciate all of the panelists participating and helping the LGBTQ Caucus of the Nashville Metro Council to reach out to the community,” VanReece said in closing.

You can view the webinar on the Metro Nashville Network YouTube channel or at the Metro Nashville COVID-19 website, located here.