RWJ University Hospital Somerset adds LGBTQ behavioral health therapist

LGBT Health rainbow cross with doctors

Kim Keyes an outpatient behavioral health therapist is available five days a week

Patients at the Babs Siperstein PROUD Center at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) Somerset, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, now have access to behavioral health services with a therapist dedicated to working with members of the LGBTQ community.

Kim Keyes, LCSW, an outpatient behavioral health therapist, has 18 years of experience as a social worker helping children and families. Keyes is available five days a week for in-person and telehealth appointments.

Kim Keyes

“I’ve always had a special interest in working with the LGBTQ+ community but recently decided to become more professionally involved as I have a close family member who identifies as transgender,” she says. “I’m here to help support members of the LGBTQ+ community throughout their journey, from exploring gender identity or sexual orientation to coming out to their friends and family and learning to live fully as their true selves, which may include developing coping skills or ways to build their personal support network. This is a safe space where they can find understanding and acceptance and develop a plan to address the unique challenges they face.”

LGBTQ adults are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience mental health conditions and transgender individuals are four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Depression, anxiety, and suicide rates are also higher in the LGBTQ community. About 40 percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetimes.

Coping with stigma, prejudice and discrimination can contribute to higher incidences of mental health issues among the LGBTQ community, Keyes says.

“The transitioning process can be very stressful for transgender individuals. They are worried about how to tell others and what their reaction will be as well as anxious about starting hormone replacement therapy and considering surgical options,” she says. “Talking it through with someone who is supportive helps them develop healthy coping skills.”

“Too many members of the LGBTQ+ community suffer in silence. We are excited to be able to offer our patients convenient access to behavioral health services right here on our campus,” said Perry Farhat, Esq., director of diversity and inclusion at RWJUH Somerset and director of the Babs Siperstein PROUD Center. “Mental health is a key part of patients’ overall health and wellness.”

RWJUH Somerset has been recognized for providing culturally competent care and reducing health care disparities. The Human Rights Campaign has honored the hospital as a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality seven years in a row.

RWJUH Somerset was the first hospital in New Jersey to offer specialized primary care services for the LGBTQ community. The Babs Siperstein PROUD Center, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, offers hormone therapy and monitoring, HIV care, health education, counseling, support groups, and referrals for specialty services.

Most major insurance plans are accepted. Costs for behavioral health services for uninsured LGBTQ patients will be covered through funding from a grant from TD Bank.

To schedule an appointment, call 908-243-8647.