LGBTQ Safe Zone Certification Program
At Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), our mission is to improve members’ health and peace of mind by facilitating their access to affordable, high-quality healthcare. As part of our commitment, we aim to increase availability of care to the LGBTQ community, which remains an underserved population with specific healthcare needs. Through the LGBTQ Safe Zone Program, we help members find safe and inclusive places to receive care.
The LGBTQ Safe Zone Program certifies providers and community-based organizations identifying themselves as supporters of the LGBTQ community. Certification requirements reflect policies, procedures, and physical space related to equity and inclusion for LGBTQ patients. By expanding the LGBTQ Safe Zone certification, we hope to:
- Help direct members of the community toward welcoming spaces committed to inclusive treatment
- Identify safe healthcare spaces with protections against discrimination and differential treatment
- Increase visibility for providers committed to equity and inclusion for LGBTQ patients
- Advance health equity in our provider network and Rhode Island
- Allow for patients’ legal and preferred name
- Allow patients to list gender pronouns
- Allow patients to select their proper gender identity, including a fill-in-the-blank option
As part of the certification requirement, all staff members are required to take cultural competence training for LGBTQ care. Offices are encouraged to establish unique cultural competency training that works best for their staff members. Below are training options that BCBSRI has found helpful. Participants will want to keep a record of their participation.
- Training offered by the National LGBT Health Education Center.
- The “Achieving Health Equity for LGBTQIA People” is the approved training.
- We encourage staff members to use the additional learning resources they provide.
- Remote training provided by Human Rights Campaign or other HRC-approved trainings
- Courses offered by the Center for Affiliated Learning
- Practices will make at least one gender-neutral bathroom available for visitor and staff use.
- Practices will clearly post their patient non-discrimination policy.
- Patients are called from the waiting room in a gender-nonspecific way.
- Staff members follow procedures for using the patient’s preferred name and pronouns that may be different from legal name and sex.
- Staff follows procedures for handling a patient’s sexual orientation or gender, when referring the patient to another provider, as appropriate.
- Clinical practices are reviewed annually to ensure providers are not assuming a patient’s gender, marital/partnered status, and/or sexual activity.
1. Fill out the application
The application assesses the requirements mentioned above. You will be able to certify up to 4 unique office locations.
Application deadlines are on February 15 and August 15 each year unless these dates fall on a weekend or holiday. Applications will then be due on the following business day.
2. Verify your application responses
Before we review your application, we ask that you verify each response on the application by using the file upload feature in the application. This checklist suggests which materials you may want to prepare to verify your application responses.
Please refer to the checklist for details.
3. Receive a passing score
After the materials to verify each response have been submitted, we will review your application. To receive a passing score, each answer must affirm the best practices in working with LGBTQ people. Our grading criteria ensures that members consistently experience the same high standards at each Safe Zone location.
4. Mark your office a certified LGBTQ Safe Zone
We will send window clings and a customized plaque to mark your office a certified Safe Zone. We will post your practice on our member Safe Zone page so those seeking care may easily contact you. You may also share your new credential within your own website or other publications.
We encourage you to stay updated on best practices for LGBTQ care and offer appropriate resources to those you serve.
- Visit the World Professional Association for Transgender Health to view WPATH’s Standards of Care, which provide clinical guidance for health professionals to assist transsexual, transgender, and gender nonconforming people. They also offer current news, resources, and publications.
- Options Magazine provides advocacy and education to the LGBTQ community of Rhode Island. Options also organizes inclusive events and life-affirming resources for the LGBTQ community.
- The Human Rights Campaign offers the Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking tool that reports best policies and practices for LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace.
- The Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Group of the Rhode Island Department of Health works to improve LGBTTQQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Two-Spirit, Queer and Questioning) public health policies, systems, and environmental change.
BCBSRI welcomes any questions, thoughts, or concerns regarding the LGTBQ Safe Zone Program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.