The Colorado Capitol on May 9, 2023. (Sara Wilson/Colorado Newsline)
A group of teenagers in Colorado might urge the Legislature to increase resources for health care providers to become trained in youth gender-affirming care as more people travel to the state from areas with limited access to such care.
“Even though Colorado is a leader in gender-affirming care, there are inequalities across the region due to a lack of trained providers. This care is essential and it needs to be expanded statewide,” Mason Evans, a member of the Colorado Youth Advisory Council, told state lawmakers during a virtual Wednesday hearing.
Gender-affirming care refers to a wide swath of treatments provided to transgender and gender non-conforming people to help bring their gender expression in line with their gender identity.
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Evans, as a COYAC member, wants to see legislation to establish a grant program that would allow for widespread training on gender-affirming care in family planning clinics, federally qualified health centers, and rural health care clinics. That care would specifically include puberty blockers, which are reversible, and hormone therapy, which is semi-reversible.
The grants would allow practitioners to receive continuing medical education in gender-affirming care, such as through the online course QueerCME. The most expansive package that QueerCME offers is $399 per year.
Evans said he began seeking gender-affirming care when he was 15, but his doctor told him they couldn’t provide it. He did not start receiving that care for another three years.
“In those few years, my mental health suffered. Every day was a struggle and I really had to drag myself out of it to get to this point where I am finally able to receive gender-affirming care. This is the reality for many youth in Colorado,” he said.
In its standards of care publication, the World Professional Association of Transgender Health states that transgender people “often report having to teach their medical providers how to care for them due to the latter’s insufficient knowledge and training.”
In Colorado, the demand for gender-affirming care is likely to increase as patients and their families travel from neighboring states where care, especially for children, is limited or banned. This year, Democratic lawmakers passed legislation to shield people who seek care in Colorado and doctors in the state that provide the care from out-of-state prosecution.
Additionally, Evans and his colleagues on COYAC want to see a task force to study gender-affirming care availability for young people in Colorado. That task force would examine the number of providers in each region, the training available, threats to providers, the type of care patients seek and the availability of insurance coverage, among other factors. The group would submit a final report to the Legislature by the end of 2026.
COYAC will be able to promote three pieces of legislation to the Legislative Council that could then turn into bills next session. Last year’s semi-successful bills on eating disorder prevention and mitigation were born out of ideas from the youth advisory council, which was established in statute to give youth a voice in the lawmaking process.
Other COYAC members on Wednesday shared policy ideas to expand Asian American and Pacific Islander history education in public schools, increase the number of licensed psychologists for youth and provide more hygiene resources for students at school.
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