Metro Community Health Center Provides Queer-Friendly Care at Low Cost

Photo courtesy of Metro Community Health Center.

The team at Metro Community Health Center has one focus – the care of their patients. 

The organization was founded in 1999, then called the Metro Family Practice. At the start, Metro was made up of family doctors affiliated with the Allegheny University of Health Sciences. It acted also as a teaching site, where Chief Medical Officer Dr. Katherine Homrok was hired to run the program. 

Now, the organization provides all kinds of care – all in the same place. They have a medical clinic, dental clinic, and mental health clinic. And the best part is – if you don’t have insurance, you can still receive care without the usual sky-high medical costs. 

“We ask people to bring in their financial information – a pay stub, utility bill, things like that,” Homrok said. “Then we put them on a sliding scale based on U.S. poverty guidelines. So people pay anywhere from a small fee, to somedowns down to zero.”

However, if you do have insurance, Metro accepts all insurances. The sliding scale also includes medicine. 

“We partner with a pharmacy here in town called the Coordinated Care Network,” Homrok continued. “When you’re a federally-qualified health center, you can qualify to get medications at a deep discount from the federal government. So people who can’t afford to pay for their medicines, we can help get them on a sliding scale. And just like their medical services here, they may pay a little something or down to nothing for essential medications, and we’ll get them hooked up with that.”

The organization provides all different types of care. 

“We provide a full range of family medicine, from taking care of people with chronic diseases like high blood pressure and asthma and diabetes, which are huge in our community, to gender-affirming care, PrEP, and HIV care,” Homrok shared. “We do it in this setting where the queer community is fully integrated with the straight community in Wilkinsburg and Swissvale. So we have a really cool waiting room full of people that are learning from each other, and it just works really, really nicely.” 

Metro’s website states that the organization prioritizes “patient-centered care.” The team explained what kind of care this entails. 

“We try to be very collaborative with our patients,” Homrok said. “Medicine isn’t a one-size-fits-all for any person. So, we try to collaborate with our patients to find out what’s worked with them in the past, and what hasn’t worked for them in the past. If they feel free to talk about it, what have their negative experiences with the healthcare system been?” 

After going through the patient’s history, they will come up with a plan together to get the patient the care that they need and are comfortable with. 

A service that Metro offers that is especially helpful to those in the LGBTQIA+ community is gender-affirming care. Gender-affirming care is medical care “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity.” Medical provider Dr. Susan Gibson shared the specifics of the care offered at Metro. 

“My goal coming here, and being a nurse practitioner to begin with, is to work in a place where we can provide a safe place that is comfortable, and establish trust with our patients, especially those who have been marginalized in the past,” Gibson said. “A big piece of that is gender-affirming care; it is knowing when somebody is ready for different aspects of treatment.” 

Gibson shared that even on the medical side of things, being a mental health advocate and listening to the patients goes a long way. She stated that understanding a patient and understanding where they are coming from, as well as the difficulties they have faced, is a huge part of the care. 

“Medically, it’s a matter of meeting you where you’re at, and taking you on your schedule, your journey, and your time,” she said. 

Kelli James, Metro’s Special Projects and Public Relations Manager, shared something else that makes the organization unique and helpful. 

“We do the integrative care,” James said. “And we have the mental health and dental and medical all in the same building, all on the same floor. So if a patient is coming for a medical appointment, and is having a mental health crisis, we can do what we call a warm handoff, and call in a therapist to meet with that patient and help them work through whatever they are experiencing.” 

Another bonus is that patients will not be bounced from doctor to doctor every time they visit – they will stick with the same doctor they are comfortable with. 

In addition to all of these services, Metro also offers a HIPAA-compliant transportation service. It is called Uber Health, and if a patient lives within a 10-mile radius of Metro, they can get a free ride to their appointment. 

Metro Community Health Center is located in Wilkinsburg/Swissvale. 

Tia (she/her) is a recent Point Park grad who majored in journalism. She loves all things movies, music, and Pittsburgh! As the summer 2022 QBurgh intern, she’s looking forward to writing about Pittsburgh’s LGBTQIA+ community and highlighting all the cool people doing cool things in the community.