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Health, Science, Environment

Advocacy group for LGBT seniors merges with PROMO

SAGE coordinator Eugene Potchen-Webb (left), volunteer Clarissa Jackson (center) and executive director Sherrill Wayland (right) stand outside SAGE's current offices at 4168 Juniata St. in Tower Grove.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Sherrill Wayland started SAGE eight years ago, in a one-bedroom apartment at the Tower Grove Manor.

Now, the group that helps lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender older adults find housing, healthcare and other services will start to expand their reach, by coming under the wing of the state’s largest advocacy group for the LGBT community, PROMO Fund.  

“Right now our work has primarily been focused in the St. Louis region, but over time we continued getting calls across the state,” said Wayland. “[The merger] allows us the opportunity to meet some of the needs in more isolated areas.”

As a program of PROMO, SAGE will have the resources to start offering some of their referral, training and advocacy services in Kansas City, which does not have a SAGE chapter, Wayland said. (The closest is in Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

“If there’s a way to help people age in place, stay local if they want to, and get the care they need, we can provide programming,” said Reverend Kurt Krieger, who established the LGBT Older Adult Task Force in Kansas City when he realized that some of his older congregants had been moved by family members to places where they no longer had their social support networks.  

Additional resources through PROMO, will help the group increase the number of people they can assist, Krieger said. Also, his group can potentially become an official chapter of SAGE.

“We identified a lot of overlap. We do a lot of referrals, they do quite a few referrals,” said A.J. Bockelman, PROMO’s executive director.  “Together, we have an ability to apply for different types of grants and funding, and look at a larger footprint down the road.” 

In the past year, SAGE and PROMO collaborated to provide about 70 trainings for health providers and other groups who care for older adults — about 1,900 employees in total. Wayland said those lessons can range from “LGBT 101” to presentations about best practices for caring for LGBT older adults.

“Things such as visitation rights. Ensuring that if a person is going into a nursing home, that they have the right to visit their partner. If a person has transitioned, that they have a right to wear the clothing of their choice,” Wayland said.

One training was an online course taken by about 600 employees of SSM Health, a Catholic hospital network based in St. Louis. 

SAGE helps LGBT older adults find housing and other services through a referral program. Missouri’s non-discrimination law does not include protections for people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, which can be a barrier to seniors seeking care, Wayland said. In the past few months, two transgender individuals contacted her after being denied residence in a nursing home.

“Many of our older adults also do not have children. So they may lack that kind of natural support structure that a lot of heterosexual couples have if they’ve had children, so that also leaves them more vulnerable,” Wayland said. “Because who’s their care provider? Who’s providing that day-to-day support and advocacy for them?”

SAGE will move into PROMO’s offices in Midtown St. Louis on Aug. 1, becoming “SAGE of PROMO Fund.” It’s unclear what will happen to their current building at 4168 Juniata St., but public hearings for a bar and restaurant and a coffee sleeve manufacturing business are scheduled for later in the month. 

For more health-related news in St. Louis, follow Durrie on Twitter: @durrieB

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