By Megan Wadding, June 2016 Issue.

The LGBTQ Consortium of Maricopa County and the LGBTQ Integrated Health Coalition of Southern Arizona present the fifth annual statewide healthcare conference June 2-3 at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson.

The two-day conference, titled Let's Get Better Together: A Quality Look at Healthcare, focus on integrated health for Arizona’s LGBTQ communities and holistic health, treating the entire person, mind, body and spirit.

According to Jason Vail Cruz, the LGBTQ Consortium’s lead community development coordinator, this year’s theme, “Approaches to Holistic Healing: LGBTQ Integrated Care,” was chosen due to events that are happening within the health systems of the state of Arizona.

“There is a move towards full integration and [the] creation of 'one-stop shops,' which is influencing how people get care, where the care is provided and what range of services are available,” he said.

As a result, the conference provides a space for advocacy training, education, guest speakers, specific sessions and panels, networking and vendors converge.

The first day of the conference, Cruz explained, is dedicated to events that help LGBTQ community members learn how to advocate within themselves, their agencies and their communities.

Isaac Akapnitis, LGBTQ Consortium public relations chair, who also has a background in sociology and social work, will co-present along with Cruz on both days of the conference. On the first day, they will be discussing strategies to “create community-wide change in support of the LGBTQ [and gender and sexuality minority] community.”

Then, the following day, they will be co-facilitating a workshop about providing trauma-informed care to the community.

“[The workshop] will include a discussion on barriers to treatment and care, health disparities within the community that can create, perpetuate and exacerbate trauma and ways providers can approach clients with competency and sensitivity to promote better health outcomes,” Akapnitis explained.

The second day of the conference will also feature keynote sessions in the morning followed by three breakout sessions at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels for participants to learn about LGBTQ health and health practices from all around the state.

“Breakout sessions, the advocacy day, and the plenary are all vetted by committee and lead by speakers who work in the field,” Cruz said. “The speakers are from all holistic disciplines inside Arizona.”

This conference, which is open to the public, is expected to draw 300 attendees.

“[It] is a full day of workshops to address ‘body, mind and spirit’ healthcare practices for adults and children who identify in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual or two-spirit populations,” Akapnitis said. “We will address intersections between LGBTQ identity and medical healthcare, mental healthcare and spiritual practices.”

Since the first conference, in 2011, Cruz said its goal has been to grow health literacy, increase skills in providing services to the LGBTQ community, specifically in holistic ways.

“It is an inexpensive way to gain skills, continue education credits and [a] networking experience,” Cruz said.

In addition to the events at the conference, Cruz added that there will also be bookstore on-site that will have the books and other texts touched upon by the conference speakers.

“There will be books of LGBTQ history, health information, and other knowledge that will help support the learning of the participants,” said Cruz.

Attendees must pre-register online, at letsgetbettertogether16.eventbrite.com, in advance. For a full schedule of events, visit facebook.com/letsgetbettertogetheraz.

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