by Jude Samson
New York has been ahead of the curve in this area time and again by instituting regulations that mandate insurance carries provide for trans health services in their coverage among other pro-trans legislation. One exciting change happened at Northwell Health (formerly LIJ/North Shore health system) over the summer of 2016, although it took a lot of hard work leading up to this point.
Spearheading the Northwell Transgender Health Center (there is currently no specific page dedicated to this center) is Dr. David Rosenthal, who has been steadfastly working to educate providers all over New York/Long Island to provide better health care services to all trans people. You will also find Devon, the Outreach/Trans Health Navigator at Northwell, hard at work juggling many hats within the center located at 865 Northern Blvd. Great Neck, NY 11021.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
- Northwell is a large medical system that integrates medical and mental health professionals at various practices and hospitals throughout the area. It is not just one single office or provider. As such this gives you the opportunity to see just about any type of provider you could possibly need.
- There is still a learning curve. Because the center is required to comply with regulations within the NYS Insurance and Health Departments, they are somewhat restricted in how they can handle certain issues. That means if your name/gender marker has not been changed with your insurance provider they will be forced to use that information when processing your chart/claims.
- More providers are being educated constantly. Training, retraining, seminars, and various meetings are undergone on a frequent basis to get all the providers on the same page with what is and isn’t acceptable when handling trans clients. As such, please give these willing providers a chance to learn and give them information they may need to help them grow into the best providers they can be for all of us.
- Your intake will be lengthy so clear your day. While you may not be waiting long (although wait times can vary just like in any other practice) your time spent at each stage is thorough. You are not simply rushed through the process but rather people speak to you at length, listen to you closely, and you can often handle multiple things all at one visit.
- Once you have an appointment you will go through a lengthy and in-depth intake process. First you will meet with someone (likely Devon) who will get your basic information, tell you about the center, hear about why you’re there, and so forth.
- After Devon you will typically meet with Dr. David Rosenthal who will discuss in further detail what your short and long-term goals are, where you are in your own life with your transition, medical concerns, and perform a brief exam to obtain base-line vitals.
- Next you will have a brief intake session with their counselor/therapist. This person will be there to assess your mental health needs and to ensure each stage you enter is done safely. You can opt to see this person on a more regular basis if you are not currently seeing a therapist.
- From there you will (likely not on the same day) see the endocrinologist. You may have to get labs done before your appointment with this doctor and since there is already a wait to see them make sure you time your labs appropriately (the center will assist you).
WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED:
At this point the center is excited to be operational and providing all kinds of services to the community. As a new center, however, there’s bound to be room for improvement. Many of these things they’re already aware of and diligently working towards correcting. Remember, as progressive as they may be, they’re still forced to work within the confines of an antiquated system.
- Deadnaming – This is an unfortunate side-effect of the older system as it has not yet been adapted to allow for alternative/secondary names. If your name has not yet been legally changed, the system will not allow for this to be noted and therein the automated systems used for appointment confirmations, mailing systems, and insurance purposes will wind up using the “legal” name associated at this time. They are working on adapting the system to correct this.
- Binary Gender Markers – Again, the system has not yet been adapted to account for the non-binary gender spectrum. As such the basic programs will only recognize Male/Female options (and associated Mr./Mrs./Miss). However, the specific intake form that the center uses is geared torwards us and allows you to give your name, gender identity, and pronouns.
- Doctors offices are still learning and are on the same system. The same system issues exist throughout all the offices and providers regardless of what health care system they’re a part of and this gets further complicated when the center is making appointments with out-side providers (those with their own offices). They cannot always get the system or the services to realize that the name associated with the insurance is not the appropriate name/gender to use when calling to arrange things directly with you as a patient. The office staff, however, is working hard to pay special attention to this issue and use the proper name/pronouns whenever speaking to someone. If they make a mistake, simply inform them and it will get corrected.
- There may be “trigger issues” presented during intake. As the intake process is so thorough, it’s impossible to avoid various areas that could result in a trigger. Despite this murky water Dr. Rosenthal, Devon, and staff work diligently to make those areas as safe and as comfortable as possible.
To get a general idea about the Northwell system-wide changes be sure to check out this short video. While the video takes place at the Lenox Hill Hospital (in NYC) it is just an example of how the entire Northwell System is handling the education of its providers.
How to Make an Appointment
Even though the center is fairly new and hasn’t received the amount of press it deserves, it is already extremely busy tending to all our needs. As such, call immediately to begin the process and do not wait until the last minute. This is not like an urgent care center where you can just walk in for treatment. It is a large network that once you get established within it you now have access to an ever-growing system of providers. Once established you can see OB/GYN, Allergy, Endocrinology, and the list of fields just goes on.
- Call 516-622-5195 to get your initial appointment (If you cannot get through on that number try the general line at: 888-321-DOCS)
- Get to your appointment early as there will be the usual new patient information packet you will need to complete
– Be sure to have your photo ID, insurance card, and any current medical records (if available) with you.
- You may also utilize their online appointment services page