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Federal agency caught in uproar over workshop title

Federal agency caught in uproar over workshop title

The words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender are being restored to the title of a government-sponsored workshop on GLBT suicide after a federal health agency was bombarded with e-mail protests over their removal. The local organizers of the panel discussion said they had been warned that if they did not change the title, the workshop might be canceled by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which is funding it. "I was told that the workshop 'might not fly,"' said Ron Bloodworth, chairman of the Northwest chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. So Bloodworth and his colleagues changed the title from "Suicide Prevention Among Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Individuals" to "Suicide Prevention in Vulnerable Populations." Flooded with hundreds of e-mailed protests from Oregon mental health advocates, the federal agency this week told the organizers they could revert to the original wording. Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, said the agency's name-change idea was purely a suggestion, not an order. The workshop is one of more than 20 panel discussions that are on the agenda of the three-day conference, which begins Monday. Charles Curie, top official of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, plans to attend. The dispute over the title of Bloodworth's workshop began after the federal agency received a draft outline of the conference. Weber said that after reviewing the draft, the agency sent suggestions to the Newton, Mass.-based Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which is under contract to stage the conference. One of the recommended changes, said Weber, was to change the title of that particular workshop. "This is a conference for professionals, and you don't want to label the folks who are attending--you want to open it up to a broader audience," he said. But Bloodworth said he received a call from Lloyd Potter, director of the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, in which Potter instructed him to delete the words gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender from the title of the workshop. According to Bloodworth, Potter suggested that the workshop could be canceled and that Curie might be forced to rethink his visit to Portland. In a February 17 letter to Curie, Potter called Bloodworth's comments "misstatements and misrepresentations." Potter also apologized to Curie. "I ask for your forgiveness for anything that I may have done incorrectly that led to this incident," he wrote in the letter, which was provided to the Associated Press by Weber. (AP)

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