As the saying goes, “you are nothing without your health” and no where is that made more abundantly clear than at The Center Long Beach. The LGBT facility is home to a number of health and wellbeing programs as well as support groups, which encompass a “something for everyone” philosophy. Whether it’s yoga, the need to get an HIV test or to seek out a group that deals with issues affecting each letter in our community’s acronym, the staff at The Center Long Beach are on hand to offer help.
The Rage Monthly spoke with Administrative Director Porter Gilberg, who has been working with the organization for over two years (with a three-year stint prior as a volunteer), to discover the plethora of programs available to the public.
The HIV Counseling and Testing Program provides a safe and confidential service. Each month around 150 people take advantage of the one-on-one client attention, in turn reducing the risk of HIV infection and increasing the awareness of personal risk. It also highlights a changing shift in how HIV/AIDS is viewed, as Gilberg explained. “HIV/AIDS overall is now viewed as a chronic, manageable disease rather than a death sentence,” he stated. “We’ve had quite a few advances in medical technology and medication management. While HIV/AIDS is still a pandemic all over the world, we’re now able to get a better grasp on managing the medical conditions that people experience when they are HIV positive. Now we put focus on preventing new infections and insuring that everyone’s living as safe and healthy as possible.”
Another way The Center ensures that people can achieve a level of health and safety is by highlighting the ever-present problem of drug addiction. This month The Center will launch an outpatient drug and alcohol-counseling program, “We were fortunate enough to establish a wonderful friendship and partnership with Behavioral Health Services,” he said. “They’re a local organization that heads 17 drug and alcohol facilities in Southern California. We’ve partnered to provide outpatient drug and alcohol counseling to men who have sex with men of color, ages 18 to 29.”
The Center also tackles the subject of mental health. Gilberg feels it’s imperative for clients to have a safe haven and feel comfortable discussing their issues within, rather than have them go unchecked. “It’s incredibly important for organizations like our Center, The Center Orange County and the L.A. Center to provide resources and services that our community feels safe accessing and can benefit from addressing those issues,” he said.
Another issue that we face is the unavoidable one of aging; The Center Long Beach has social and support groups aimed at men and women over the age of 40.
Youth empowerment encompasses two of The Center’s programs, with the 20Somethings Long Beach and Mentoring Youth Through Empowerment (M.Y.T.E.), paving the way for future generations. “The 20Somethings group is a tremendous opportunity for young adults, ages 18 to 29, to meet like-minded people and to participate in empowering social activities,” Gilberg explained. “Through volunteering and community service, they really create a strong support network.”
“It’s incredibly important for organizations like our Center, The Center Orange County and the L.A. Center to provide resources and services that our community feels safe accessing and can benefit from addressing those issues.”
Another way that The Center enables youths to create a strong support network is the M.Y.T.E. program (pronounced “mighty”), which is aimed at teens aged 13 to 17 and features a heavy focus on providing a safe environment and mentors. “Our M.Y.T.E. program has really taken off in the last year since we brought on Youth Program Manager Kyle Bullock,” Gilberg explained. “When he took over this program, it was very, very small and we were serving one or two kids a day; we now get 20+ most days.”
With so many programs and services available through The Center, Gilberg feels that there is an unofficial mission statement for what they do. “Our overall goal with our health and wellness programs is to work with people to access our services, to support them as they grow and discover what they need to be comfortable with who they are…and to be healthy, active and engaged in the world.”
For more information about the services and programs The Center Long Beach offers, drop by the facility at 2017 E. Fourth Street or call 562.434.4455. You can also log on to the website at centerlb.org.