Jun 1, 2024

Expanding safe, affirming healthcare across the state

In March of this year, we welcomed five more provider locations to our ever-growing network of LGBTQ Safe Zones. We created our LGBTQ Safe Zone program in 2016 to promote safe, affirming, and inclusive healthcare environments for members of the local LGBTQ community. Since its inception, we’ve now certified 111 local providers and practices as LGBTQ Safe Zones! Twice annually – in February and August – we solicit applications from our participating providers to join that list. So, the next deadline is coming up soon, and as we celebrate Pride Month throughout June now is a great time to consider applying!

Why take this step? For starters, you’d be demonstrating your commitment to providing a welcoming space dedicated to being inclusive, protecting against discrimination and differential treatment, ensuring your commitment to equality for LGBTQ patients, and helping to advance health equity across our provider network – as well as throughout our state. Besides primary care practices, our list of Safe Zones includes behavioral health, oral health, palliative care, older adult care, pediatric care, physical rehabilitation, child and family services, organizations serving individuals who have experienced sexual assault, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and others.

Our most recent group of Safe Zone additions, announced in March, includes the first university-based facility in our network: the University of Rhode Island’s Dr. Pauline B. Wood Health Services, which serves more than 17,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It offers a wide range of services, including ambulatory medical, psychiatric, pharmacy, laboratory, and sexual health, and collaborates with the university’s Gender and Sexuality Center for faculty and staff trainings and on-campus events. Other recent additions included The Wound Recovery & Hyperbaric Medicine Center and Spaulding Outpatient Center, both at Kent Hospital, the Fertility Center at Women & Infants Hospital, and From the Heart Nutrition.

All Safe Zones must recertify annually to ensure they continue to meet program criteria. In 2023, nearly 70 BCBSRI Safe Zones recertified, reaffirming their commitment to LGBTQ inclusion and annual staff training. Certification requirements for Safe Zones include staff training specific to the care of LGBTQ patients, protection for patients and staff from discrimination based on gender identity or expression, gender neutral bathrooms, inclusive forms and procedures, and a public commitment to connecting with and serving the LGBTQ community.

Take the first step – apply today

Participating Safe Zone sites identify themselves as welcoming places for the LGBTQ community and proudly display a BCBSRI Safe Zone logo to reaffirm that status for all who enter their facility. You can review the program requirements for Safe Zone practices and the certification process, as well as complete an application, at bcbsri.com/providers.safezone-program. That page also includes many helpful resources to keep you updated on best practices for LGBTQ care.

Thank you!

We want you to know that besides being here for our community, we’re here for you – and we welcome any questions or thoughts you have about our Safe Zone program. You can direct those questions to bcbsrisafezone@bcbsri.org. And as always, thank you for all you do to keep our members and all Rhode Islanders safe and healthy.