Metro Wellness sees surge in Hormone Replacement Therapy patients

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Trans Care Coordinator Lucas Wehle (L) and LGBTQ+ Youth/Transgender Program Coordinator Cole Foust share Metro’s offerings at St. Pete Pride’s TransPride pre-party June 22 (Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent).

ST. PETERSBURG | Metro Wellness and Community Centers — currently providing Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to 584 patients throughout Tampa Bay — has announced that nearly half of those patients have begun receiving care within the last year.

“We’ve had 275 new HRT patients and that’s without counting the 76 who are in another program that we offer,” Metro’s Trans Care Coordinator Lucas Wehle says. “Almost half of our patients have started HRT care with us within the last year… that’s huge. We’ve had a huge growth.”

HRT is utilized within the transgender and gender nonconforming communities for the purpose of allowing individuals to more closely align their sexual characteristics with their gender identity. It includes both feminizing hormone therapy, typically utilized by transgender women or transfeminine people, and masculinizing hormone therapy, typically utilized by transgender men or transmasculine people.

Wehle credits the surge with Metro’s expanded health offerings, as well as a national spotlight on the transgender community. “The media has been talking more about the trans community and the topic as a whole,” he says, “so more people have been coming out as trans. The shift over the last two or three years has seen more people get to the point where they’re getting into care and starting a medical or physical transition if they wish to do so.”

“It’s very important that people have decided to take this route,” Metro’s Director of LGBTQ+ Programs Nate Taylor adds. “Some in the community were going through the black market to get HRT and it’s very dangerous. This way it’s safe, it’s monitored and there are trained physicians to help them. It’s so important to get the message out there that this is available and that people don’t need to self-medicate.”

“I am extremely grateful and encouraged that Metro Wellness now has transgender care,” 56-year old Laura Watson from Tampa Bay says, having transitioned in her late teens. She says there were virtually no resources available at the time, adding that as a result she saw people die.

“They died from depression, and they died from engaging in dangerous behavior in order to afford what sketchy treatment was available at that time,” Watson says. “Metro Wellness’ transgender care will save lives.”

Wehle cites his own journey to stress the program’s importance. “It was really hard to get into care until three or four years ago, before Metro opened our health center and we started having so many providers available for HRT care,” he says. “When I started hormones seven years ago, we had one doctor almost in the entire state of Florida. When he got sick, we literally had nowhere to go. It’s a completely different world now.”

Metro also offers a program known as “HRT UP,” which stands for uninsured program, and currently assists 76 patients in Tampa Bay. It allows patients who are under or uninsured, who have a low household income or cannot afford self-pay rates to receive care.

“Nine of those 76 were able to access care through a provider to monitor their hormones for the first time,” Wehle says, “instead of getting them from a black market or a friend or overseas.We’ve been able to help a lot of people. For all of our patients, we have wraparound services we can also connect them with. People can come here and get a slew of resources that they can benefit from, regardless of HRT care.”

“It branches off to our transgender support groups and we try to make everything come full circle,” Taylor adds. “If they’re affected by one thing then they’re affected by ten other things. We try to meet patients at all of those points.”

Above all, Wehle stresses the importance for those in the community interested in HRT to contact the organization for help. “We would love to get more people into care,” he says. “We aim to make sure we’re as strategic as possible so that we don’t have to turn people away.”

For more information about Metro Wellness and Community Centers, HRT or the organization’s programs and services, visit MetroTampaBay.org/Transgender or call 727-321-3854.

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