How Businesses Can Help with Substance-Use Disorders in the LGBTQ+ Community

Fellow Chamber Members and LGBTQ+ Business Leaders,

My name is Joe Joanne Culver. I am bi-gender/gender nonconforming, and my pronouns are based upon my current gender expression (She/Her/Hers/He/Him/His). I have graciously accepted the call from our leadership to write a blog about Substance-Use Disorders in the LGBTQ+ community and how they impact not only the community but also businesses. I will also give some suggestions on what businesses should be doing to retain workers with Substance-Use Disorders, the special challenges of the LGBTQ+ community and if I may be so bold, where I can help.

I want to first tell you a little about myself. I am 53 years old, single, and the owner of Diversity Counseling of Nevada. I am an alcoholic and compulsive gambler in recovery for 13 years. I obtained my Associate of Applied Science degree in Human Services–Addiction Counseling in 2011 from Austin Community College in Austin, Texas. I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Social Psychology–Clinical and Abnormal from Park University, Parkville, Missouri, and finally I obtained my Master of Arts in Addiction Counseling from Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies (now Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies) in Center City, Minnesota—the only Treatment Center in the United States to have a regionally accredited post-graduate program. I have been working in the field of addiction treatment since my first practicum internship in 2011. I have worked in every setting of addiction treatment from outpatient treatment and corrections-based treatment to residential treatment. My current incarnation started July 28, 2021, when I started Diversity Counseling of Nevada.

Now let me give you some sobering statistics (not meant to be a pun). According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, here are the latest (2017) pre-COVID-19 findings on substance-use disorders within the LGBTQ+ community.

First, there are no solid numbers on transgender and gender-nonconforming people with substance-use disorders, so we have to extrapolate from the LGB numbers:

  • · 20–30 percent of LGB individuals suffer substance-abuse disorders verses 3­­–10 percent in the cisgender, heterosexual population.
  • · LGB individuals suffer co-occurring mental health disorders at twice the rate of the cisgender, heterosexual population.

I could go on and on about the statistics but, with these two, you get the idea, and it is believed that upward of 75–90 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming suffer from substance abuse and co-occurring mental health.

So here are some ideas that your businesses can do to have a positive impact on LGBTQ+ employees with substance-use disorder issues:

  1. 1. Review and update your substance-use policies, continue to be aware of the cultural trauma especially with transgender and gender nonconforming.
  2. 2. Consider dealing with substance-use disorder issues not through commercial health insurance but through employee assistance programs so that confidentiality can be assured.
  3. 3. Finally, I can be a source of not only referrals for substance-use disorder treatment, I can come (or Zoom) to your business and discuss these issues in further detail with a presentation and Q&A.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be of service to you with an extremely important and sensitive issue that affects the LGBTQ+ community and businesses.

Jo Culver Owner, LADC (NV), LADC-S (NV) Website: Email: (Jo’s gender identity is based upon current gender expression)