Austin’s Waterloo Counseling Center, which has provided low-cost mental health counseling for the LGBTQIA+ community and people living with HIV/AIDS since 1983, will become part of Texas Health Action, which runs the Kind Clinic, by the end of the year.
The Kind Clinic, which has a North Austin and a Central Austin location and one in San Antonio, has been providing health care with special attention to sexual wellness for LGBTQIA+ people since 2015. Kind Clinic focuses on sexually transmitted infections, prescribing HIV prevention medications, and gender affirming care such as hormone and hormone-blocking medications.
Last year, Waterloo in North Austin served 330 clients and the Kind Clinic saw 6,420, and some of those groups overlapped. The two organizations have been treating the same patient population, one in mental health and the other in sexual health, said Texas Health Action CEO Christopher Hamilton.
"We have worked together referring patients for years," Hamilton said. "This is the next level of service we can offer."
Texas Health Action will establish insurance contracts for mental health care to start running as one organization by the end of the year. No staff reduction is planned, he said.
The immediate priority is for the clients of Waterloo to continue to receive services from the staff they know, Hamilton said.
Future plans could include bringing some counseling services into the Kind Clinic locations.
"We know that there has been not enough availability and accessibility of mental health and behavioral health," Hamilton said. The pandemic, he said, "has been making things harder for people. We have a long-term vision of being able to grow and provide more services."
Texas Health Action plans to hold virtual community feedback sessions Sept. 14 and Sept. 16.
A fourth Kind Clinic will open this fall on the west side of Interstate 35, south of East Oltorf Street. It will be the first Kind Clinic to have an in-house pharmacy.
"Patients will be able to leave with their medication," Hamilton said. "We have a whole team of patient advocates who work on everything that are barriers to fill a prescription."
An in-house pharmacy will eliminate some barriers.
Hamilton said he believes that the community the organizations serve will be excited about the two organizations becoming one.
"We are making life easier for them," he said.