Caring for LGBTQ+

Picture of Dr. David and Robert Baker Hargrove, ower of 26Health which specializes in LGBTQ healthcare

Nonprofit 26Health Offers Services for Physical and Mental Well-Being

Ten years ago, Dr. David Baker-Hargrove, a practicing psychologist in Orlando, was struggling to help low-income patients afford their treatment. He also noticed that although Central Florida had a sizeable population of LGBTQ+ residents, it lacked a public-access health center geared toward their needs.

The doctor told his husband, Robert Baker-Hargrove, that something needed to be done. “I said, ‘We need something like that here. I want us to build a clinic and run it together.’” The pair filed the paperwork as co-CEOs and co-founders in 2011 and opened the doors to their downtown Orlando clinic, then called Two Spirit Health Services, in 2015. Three years later, Robert left his 24-year career performing and producing entertainment at Walt Disney World to serve as the clinic’s chief operating officer. Dr. David serves as its president.

In 2019, the nonprofit clinic, which offers comprehensive physical and emotional care to the LGBTQ+ population and its allies regardless of their ability to pay, changed its name to 26Health, a reference to the letters in the alphabet.

“We have become much more broad in our scope and who we serve,” Dr. David said. “Whatever letter of the alphabet you identify by, your letter matters to us. We encapsulate LGBTQ+, so 26Health is the perfect name for us, into the future as far as we can see.”

During its six years of operation, 26Health has grown to 50 employees including a physician, two nurse practitioners and five behavioral health providers. The clinic has an on-site pharmacy with a discount drug program and a lab that offers a quick turnaround. “We use a test-to-treat model,” Robert said. “If a patient reacts to a lab test, we get them seen by a provider and get a prescription filled within an hour.”

Robert, who has an MBA, has focused on how the clinic’s operations can best fit with patients’ lives. 26Health is open Monday through Friday with some early morning hours and plenty of parking. It is considering opening on Saturdays and also offers time-saving telehealth services.

The clinic provides fully licensed adoption services and has a Beautiful You Spa, which grew out of providing services for transgender patients. These cash-based services help underwrite the costs of uninsured patients. “When people use our spa services or adoption services, they’re also supporting the community by helping to provide health care for others,” Robert said.

We are the only fully licensed adoption service in the state of Florida that is attached to a medical clinic, and we’re also the only adoption service in the state that is operated by and for LGBTQ+ families,” Dr. David said.

All 26Health employees receive full benefits including medical, dental, vision, short- and long-term disability, and a retirement package with a company match. “It was really important to offer this package because if we’re going to be fully inclusive and equitable as an organization, we need to make sure our benefits are fully inclusive as well,” Robert said.

26Health recently partnered with Central Florida Foundation to manage its $3.5 million endowment, which will help support its services for decades to come. It is also poised for even greater growth. On September 1, the organization bought the 52,000-square-foot, four-story building on North Magnolia Avenue in downtown Orlando that houses its clinic. “Owning our building puts us in a strong position to control our future and our destiny,” Dr. David said.

The clinic offers care to gay and straight, young and old, and remains devoted to diversity and inclusion.

“It’s about being open, learning, listening and expanding how we can be more inclusive and continuously equitable because we must be a mirror of the community we serve,” Robert said.

“Diversity is also about being mindful and respectful,” Dr. David said. “I hear people say, ‘You have to be so careful about what you say, and it seems ridiculous.’ And I think to myself: ‘Why is being careful about what you say ridiculous?’ Words matter.”



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About the author

Terry Godbey

Terry Godbey

An award-winning journalist and poet, Terry Godbey enjoys bringing people’s stories to life on the page. She has sharpened her skills at the “Orlando Sentinel” and as lead writer at Darden Restaurants, and she is always eager to discuss the finer points of grammar. Her poetry collections are “Hold Still,” “Beauty Lessons,” “Flame” and “Behind Every Door.” She enjoys wildlife and nature photography and wanders in woods and wetlands every chance she gets.

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