Last week, the University of Mississippi Medical Center announced it would be closing its LGBTQ+ clinic. Now, advocates and patients are speaking out.
UMMC is closing its TEAM clinic. Patients and advocates say it’s a huge loss.
The LGBTQ+ clinic is set to dissolve on June 30, following a recommendation from a legislative PEER committee report.
The “Trustworthy, Evidence-based, Affirming, Multidisciplinary clinic,” commonly referred to as the TEAM clinic, came under scrutiny from lawmakers last year because it provided gender affirming care, such as hormone therapy and puberty blockers, to transgender minors. The clinic stopped providing this care to minors months before Mississippi banned it in February.
While the clinic did provide gender affirming care, this was not its only function. It was designed to be a space where LGBTQ+ Mississippians could receive regular checkups and other needed care in an inclusive and welcoming environment.
The announcement from Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs at UMMC, came on June 1, the first day of pride month, and blindsided the UMMC employees who worked in the clinic.
“This is an institution responding in fear, not responding in reason,” Alex Mills, a professor of pharmacy at UMMC who oversaw operations at the TEAM clinic, told Mississippi Today’s Molly Minta. “It’s demoralizing and dehumanizing to the LGBTQ community.”
Jones' announcement stated that all TEAM clinic patients would be notified in the days following the announcement, but this has not occurred in many cases, according to Jason McCarty, executive director of Capital City Pride. McCarty said that multiple patients have reached out to him distraught after learning about the closure through social media.
“I’m asking that Dr. Woodward and the University of Mississippi Medical Center do the correct thing and make sure that all patients have been notified and no one gets lost in our broken Mississippi health care system,” McCarty said.
Katie Rives of Madison, whose transgender son has been receiving hormone therapy through the TEAM clinic, said she was infuriated by UMMC's decision and encouraged hospital employees to stand up for their queer patients.
“I think it’s disgusting and sad and I would challenge physicians inside the University Medical Center to stand up to this, because it’s not okay,” Rives said.
Ray Walker, Rives’ 17-year-old son who began transitioning at the age of 12, will be moving away from Mississippi in order to continue his treatment. He said the anti-trans bills being passed across the country are doing real harm.
“They’re doing damage,” Walker said. “They’re hurting people. They’re turning our lives upside down. … Even if it’s not hurting you, it’s hurting us.”
UMMC declined to comment for this story and would not answer questions on if it plans to implement the recommendations in the legislative PEER report on the clinic. These recommendations included reintegrating the TEAM clinic’s services back into UMMC as a whole and making optional LGBTQ+ training available to all staff and students.