Jefferson Health New Jersey plans to open an LGBTQ+ clinic in Collingswood this summer. It will be the first such clinic in southern New Jersey and will spare area residents a trip into Center City or to North Jersey, where long waits for new-patient appointments are standard, officials said.

A Jefferson primary-care physician practicing in Marlton, Justin Schweitzer, pushed for the clinic, said Amanda Kimmel, a vice president of ambulatory operations at Jefferson. “He sees that there is a significant gap on this side of the bridge for care that’s competent for this population,” Kimmel said.

Schweitzer and Kimmel picked Collingswood for the clinic not just because of the town’s reputation for being LGBTQ-friendly, but also because of its proximity to Center City — just a 15 minute PATCO ride from the 12/13th Street and Locust station, Kimmel said.

Amanda Kimmel, left, and Justin Schweitzer are leading Jefferson Health's efforts to open an LGBTQ+ clinic in Collingswood this summer. Kimmel is a vice president of ambulatory operations at Jefferson. Schweitzer is a regional medical director of primary care.
Jefferson Health New Jersey
Amanda Kimmel, left, and Justin Schweitzer are leading Jefferson Health's efforts to open an LGBTQ+ clinic in Collingswood this summer. Kimmel is a vice president of ambulatory operations at Jefferson. Schweitzer is a regional medical director of primary care.

“We felt that it would be a good location to provide access to care for those residing in South Jersey, as well as those residing in Philadelphia who are waiting for care at the Mazzoni Center,” she said.

Center City’s Mazzoni Center, which was founded in 1979 to serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities in a culturally competent way, has a wait time for new patients in the range of six to nine months, spokesperson Larry Benjamin said. Anyone newly diagnosed with HIV is seen within five days, he said.

LGBTQ competence means, Benjamin said, that a doctor would not be confused when a transgender man asks for a pap smear, or would understand what a gay man who is HIV-negative means when he asks for a prescription for PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, a drug taken daily that is very effective at preventing HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Our health center patient waiting list is a reflection of the high demand for LGBTQ-competent health care,” said Nancy Brisbon, the Mazzoni Center’s chief medical officer and a member of the nonprofit’s interim leadership team. She said Mazzoni officials had been working on building a relationship with Jefferson for more than year.

“We’re pleased to have provided an impetus for Jefferson to more fully embrace offering LGBTQ welcoming spaces. We are glad that patients will have more options,” Brisbon said.

Mazzoni’s health center at 1348 Bainbridge St. saw 7,593 patients in the year ended June 30, 2019. The organization had $17.8 million in revenue, according to the annual report on its website.

Other health systems have also embraced specialized care for members of LGBTQ communities.

Main Line Health launched its LGBTQ Inclusive Care in 2018. It includes three primary-care practices: Bryn Mawr Family Practice, Main Line HealthCare Family Medicine in Paoli, and Main Line HealthCare Family Medicine at Riddle Hospital.

Penn Medicine started its Program for LGBT Health in 2014. Its website lists 98 physicians, physician assistants, and certified registered nurse practitioners, not including providers at Penn subsidiaries Lancaster General Health or Princeton Health. The Family Medicine Practice at Penn Medicine University City is notable for providing primary care for the LGBTQ population, a spokesperson said.

The Jefferson clinic, which is close to signing a lease for a spot in the center of Collingswood, is expected to open with two full-time primary-care physicians, including Schweitzer, and a full-time licensed clinical social worker, Kimmel said. Staff will also include rotating specialists in infectious diseases, psychiatry, gynecology, and surgery,

“We’re thrilled to be hosting it," Collingswood Mayor Jim Maley said. "I did not know that there was such a need until this first came up, but hearing from the community, it’s pretty clear that there’s a dire need and we’re happy to provide folks in South Jersey an opportunity to get some specialized care.”