The federal money is being funneled through the Georgia Tobacco Use Prevention Program of the Georgia Department of Community Health, said ALHI Executive Director Linda Ellis.

“It’s my understanding this is the first time the state has provided funding for LGBT health concerns other than HIV,” Ellis said. “This is significant. I think it’s exciting [the state approached us] and it’s potentially groundbreaking.”

The funds will be used for a full research project to include a community assessment, focus groups and in-person surveys, Ellis said. ALHI has partnered with Dr. Lawrence Bryant, an assistant professor at Georgia State University whose research includes tobacco control and elimination.

National studies show that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people smoke more often than their straight peers. The National LGBT Tobacco Control Network reports gay people are 50 to 200 percent more likely to be addicted to smoking than the general public. According to estimates by the American Cancer Society, more than 30,000 LGBT people die each year of tobacco-related diseases.

“We as a community have higher rates of smoking. The state is getting help from the federal level and figures it is time to begin addressing the needs in our community,” Ellis said.

Ellis added ALHI was approached because it is the only organization that is addressing the broader health issues within the LGBT community.

ALHI is partnering with Atlanta Pride and Black Gay Pride to conduct surveys. “We will use what we learn to work with the state to develop intervention programs and to have the state make sure the messages are appropriate for our community,” Ellis said.

ALHI also recently received a $30,000 grant through the Community Engagement & Research Program of the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute. The nonprofit will receive $15,000 this year and $15,000 next year, Ellis said. The grant is a way for the state to help nonprofits combine efforts with academic researchers.

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