Summit County wins Ally Award for transgender policies | SummitDaily.com

Summit County wins Ally Award for transgender policies

Lesley Mumford was the first to take advantage of Summit County's new transgender-inclusive policies.

The Summit County Government and Sheriff's Office have been selected as honorees for One Colorado's 2018 Ally Awards, presented to individuals and organizations who work to advance equality and make differences in the lives of the LGBTQ community in Colorado.

"It really means a lot to win an award like this because we pride ourselves on being an inclusive employer," said Molly Boyd, head of the county's human resources department. "This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed, so it's really exciting to be on the forefront and be a trailblazer, and to be recognized for that."

The award comes as the result of a series of transgender-inclusive policies, practices and health care changes the Summit Government designed and integrated in Dec. 2015.

Boyd and Thomas Davidson, a county commissioner, began going through the county's benefit plans in December 2014, and discovered that not only did the available health insurance plans not cover procedures, medication or counseling for transgender individuals, they specifically excluded them. The two made changing health coverage and internal policies a priority, and with the support of the Summit County Board of County Commissioners and One Colorado, were able to implement the new policies at the end of 2015.

The county added new "gender identity" and "gender expression" clauses to its equal-employment-opportunity and anti-harassment guidelines, prohibiting workplace harassment and discrimination based on those factors. The county also implemented new transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage, giving employees transitioning the proper resources they need.

"Health care is extremely complex, and to have comprehensive coverage for people transitioning is still relatively new in the U.S.," said Davidson. "So there was a lot of work that went into having everything covered, and in the right way so people can get procedures, medications and counseling. Molly did a very thorough and exhaustive job of making sure we have a plan that will really and truly cover all the bases."

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The extended coverage also includes family members of county employees, offering the same services to spouses and trans-youth seeking counseling and medications.

"It is important for youth that identify as trans to be able to get the right kind of counseling and medications," said Davidson. "For someone who is in their teenage years, it certainly makes the transition process much easier if they do decide to transition as an adult."

The new coverage and policies made a difference almost immediately, after Lesley Mumford, a former 12-year veteran of the sheriff's office, announced her transition to the rest of the office more than a year ago. She cited the changes as a reason she and her wife, Sarah, stayed in Summit County.

"When they made that announcement I went home to Sarah and said, 'You're not going to believe this, look at what the county did," Mumford told the Summit Daily News last year. "I was ready to walk away from all of this, but that move the county made compelled us to stay here and be part of this community."

Now that the policies and new health coverage plans are up and successfully running, Boyd hopes that Summit County can work as a template for other businesses and governments to become more inclusive.

"One of the things that I've been working on is encouraging other employers to look at their employment policies and their benefit programs, and see how it does or does not include transgender employees," said Boyd. "I think that's kind of our goal moving forward is to educate other employers. The work has been done and we're happy to answer any questions."

The Summit County Government joins Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and the Denver Health & the LGBT Center of Excellence as the other Ally Award winners. Senator Lucia Guzman is being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

The 7th Annual Ally Awards will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel Denver on Aug. 25.