By Paul Myers
visalia – Coming home to Tulare County as an openly gay man, after a decade long hiatus in a place where being a member of the LGBTQ community is embraced, is a difficult life adjustment. And before The Source was available in Visalia, medical options for members of the LGBTQ community were difficult to find.
When The Source treasurer Nick Vargas returned to Visalia in April of 2015, after living in the Bay Area where he attended Stanford, he found it particularly difficult to find doctors keen in medical protocols that are considered common for gay men.
“When I came back I Googled gay therapists but it didn’t bring up anything. I mean there were therapists that were there but it wasn’t what I was looking for,” said Vargas about his search. As well, Vargas struggled to communicate with his doctor on specific types of testing. At one point he was describing to his physician what it was he needed. Soon after that he had problems with prescription refills and follow up appointments. Largely his problems stemmed from a lack of knowledge on the part of the physicians who do not regularly encounter LGBTQ patients.
The Source director Brian Poth, who was born and raised in Tulare, had a similar experience when he moved back from Los Angeles. Poth, like Vargas found that few clinical physicians or nurses could adequately provide the care most members of the LGBTQ community need.
“Here there was no LGBT center in a very rural community and no avenue to meet face-to-face…it is a drought in many ways,” said Poth. “But don’t get me wrong when you go to the emergency room at Kaweah Delta they are very knowledgeable but it takes an emergency.”
Therefore, in the face of few options, Vargas and Poth felt as if they had to navigate the system to find doctors, nurses, therapists and other medical professionals on their own. However, on Feb. 19 of this year it became a real idea that a viable resource may become available for LGBTQ support. And by May of this year The Source was A fully fledged non-profit with a brick and mortar presence in Visalia in Montgomery Square on Main. As recently as Nov. 2 The Source held their ribbon cutting denoting their membership to the Visalia Chamber of Commerce.
“When we started this someone asked me, ‘aren’t you scared’ and now to see this support is amazing,” said Poth at last weeks ribbon cutting.
Poth said that he wasn’t asked if he was afraid because of it being dangerous, he was really being asked if he was afraid of it not panning out the way he had hoped. During their grand opening there were more than 450 supporters that needed to stand not only in the hallway, but outside.
But supporters have not only shown their appreciation by showing up, they have shown their appreciation with their wallets. Poth and Vargas began The Source by crowd funding. When they reached their first benchmark at $1,000 within a week, they raised it TO $5,000, and then again to $10,000. And according to the director and treasurer funds were coming in from all over the country.
“The outreach beyond Visalia has been big. Some people were just saying ‘oh my god I can’t believe you are doing this in my hometown, I wish that was there when I was there’,” said Vargas.
While The Source hopes to grow its level of available resources, they have managed to provide a profound level of support for the LGBTQ community in Visalia. Family Nurse Practitioners Shawn Cardoza and Devin Rhyman have been major contributors in their ability to help clients and Beverly J Anderson has been able to help as a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist, just to name a few.
“I think that it’s a human thing to do, to help people. If there are doctors we like we tell people about it,” said Vargas.