Prizm News / January 7, 2018 / By Bob Vitale

Interim Executive Director Aaron Eckhardt will continue running the anti-violence organization as a program of Equitas Health.

Leaders say joining forces will enhance services for LGBTQ people across Ohio.


By Bob Vitale

The Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization, which for 22 years has chronicled crimes against LGBTQ Ohioans and worked to prevent them, will become part of Equitas Health under an agreement reached by the two organizations.

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BRAVO’s board of trustees initiated talks with Equitas Health last summer and approved details of the plan in mid-December. The Equitas Health board also has approved the asset acquisition.

Under the agreement, BRAVO will become a program of Ohio’s LGBTQ-focused health network. Interim Executive Director Aaron Eckhardt will stay on to run the program, and BRAVO’s existing staff will stay in their jobs as well.

“We are a firm believer when it comes to LGBTQI community services that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” said Bill Hardy, president and CEO of Equitas Health. “We are thrilled to offer our patients and clients access to a greater array of services and to bring BRAVO’s expertise and anti-violence framework to Equitas Health.”

Equitas Health Chief Operating Officer Peggy Anderson said the addition of BRAVO will enhance the services of both organizations. Working together means better training around issues of violence for staff at 17 Equitas Health offices and medical centers across Ohio, she said. It also gives BRAVO quick access to medical care and other services for people who report being victims of violence.

“It’s a natural aligning of services,” Eckhardt said.

Violence is a health issue for LGBTQ people, Eckhardt and Anderson said. Anderson, in fact, called it a “public health crisis.”

According to the FBI, bias-motivated crimes in which victims were targeted because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation increased 4 percent in 2017. Crimes against people based on their actual or perceived gender identity decreased overall, but the murders of 29 transgender people in the United States was the highest recorded in a single year.

At least 26 trans people were murdered in the United States during 2018. Two Cleveland women, 45-year-old Phylicia Mitchell and 54-year-old Keisha Wells, were among the victims.

Eckhardt said BRAVO is solvent and stable—”that’s really just not true,” they said of suggestions the organization was struggling financially—but leaders felt their ability to expand its reach has been limited.

“Over our 20-some-year history, we have grown,” they said. “We have grown to the point where the next steps were very difficult to become larger. We want to enter into this to better serve Ohio.”

“Equitas Health has the infrastructure. The road is built, and they’re inviting BRAVO to travel with them.”

BRAVO was founded in 1996, and its staff of six people works to eliminate violence perpetrated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. It offers prevention and education, not just related to crimes against LGBTQ people but about domestic violence and sexual assault within the community. It collects data on anti-LGBTQ violence in Ohio and links survivors to the services they need.

Equitas Health grew out of HIV/AIDS services agencies in Dayton, Toledo and Columbus that all were formed in the 1980s. The organizations merged over the years and eventually expanded into primary care for all LGBTQ people. The not-for-profit now serves more than 67,000 patients and clients.

Equitas Health also publishes Prizm.

“I really believe our growth is a good thing,” Anderson said. “It’s about making sure the community has what it needs.”


If you are ever in immediate danger, call 911. If you are an LGBTQ person who has been the victim of violence or threats based on your identity, you can also call BRAVO.

BRAVO will help you explore potential courses of action and assist in developing a safety plan.

Call 1-866-86-BRAVO (1-866-862-7286) from anywhere in Ohio, 614-294-7867 in Columbus, 513-453-4001 in Cincinnati or 216-370-7361 in Cleveland.

Visit to learn more.

Equitas Health is online at The LGBTQ-focused health network offers primary and specialized medical care, a retail pharmacy, dental and behavioral health services, HIV/STI prevention, advocacy, and community health initiatives.


Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.