LOUISVILLE, KY, August 25, 2020 - Conversion therapy for youth is a discredited, ineffective and often cruel practice that increases the risk of suicide and should be prohibited, the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky said in a letter to the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing, Occupations and Administrative Regulations today. The committee is considering a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Lisa Willner and Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr to protect youth from the practice. Following is a statement from Foundation president and CEO Ben Chandler:

"The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky joins a long list of major medical and mental health organizations in supporting legislation to protect LGBTQ youth from the discredited and harmful practice known as 'conversion therapy' or 'reparative therapy.' These sexual orientation or gender identity conversion efforts (SOGICE) can be cruel and degrading to youth and typically use shaming techniques that enhance anti-LGBTQ stigmas. As of May 2020, at least 700 US cities and counties, 20 states, and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have taken action to protect youth from these practices, according to the Movement Advancement Project.

"The Foundation looks to medical and mental health experts and the science to understand whether therapies are effective, and whether they might do more harm than good. Conversion therapy has been condemned as ineffective and dangerous by every major medical and mental health organization in America as well as several international health organizations. A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in July 2020 concluded that 'those who reported undergoing SOGICE were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide and having multiple suicide attempts.' Other studies have cited increased risk of depression, illegal drug use, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases among youth who undergo such discredited practices.

"Reducing health disparities is core to the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky’s work. The July 2020 AJPH study also found that youth who are Hispanic/Latinx, who live in the Southern U.S., whose families are lower-income or whose religion is anti-LGBTQ are more likely to be subjected to conversion therapy. These youth are, therefore, at greater risk for suicide and other negative health impacts.

"We encourage the legislature to pass this bill in the coming session to protect Kentucky’s youth from the unethical practice of conversion therapy by prohibiting its use by licensed medical and mental health professionals."

About the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky
Funded by an endowment, the mission of the nonpartisan Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky is to address the unmet health needs of Kentuckians by developing and influencing policy, improving access to care, reducing health risks and disparities, and promoting health equity. Since the Foundation opened its doors in 2001, it has invested more than $29 million in health policy research, advocacy, and demonstration project grants across the Commonwealth.

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