A “SAFE ZONE” to Receive the Healthcare You Need



by Guillaume Bagal

Diversity & Inclusion Lead, Blue

Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island



At a particularly divisive time both politically and religiously, Blue

Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) has certified a new

wave of BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone providers representing several

specialties across the state that offer safe, affirming, and inclusive care

to the LGBTQ community. BCBSRI introduced the program in 2016,

and this new group – including primary care, behavioral health, child

and family services, and, for the first time, elder care facilities – joins

more than a dozen other providers statewide designated as BCBSRI

LGBTQ Safe Zone certified providers.

In this robust new group of Safe Zone providers, it is of particular

significance that we have identified Safe Zones specifically for elder

care for the first time: Aldersbridge Communities. Despite creating

families of choice and other support networks, many LGBTQ older

people still experience high rates of social isolation. They are twice as

likely to be single and to live alone, and three to four times as likely

to be childless. Older LGBTQ people who find themselves in a care

facility are already in a vulnerable situation regardless of their sexuality.

We sometimes see a phenomenon of LGBTQ seniors “aging back

into the closet” out of fear of negative treatment by staff or fellow

residents. According to the organization Justice in Aging, only 50

percent of senior-age LGBTQ Americans in long-term care said they

were comfortable being out about their orientation.


The newly designated

BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zones include:


PVD Psychological Associates - Providence


A private psychology practice whose mission is to provide the

greater Rhode Island area with exceptional therapy and to offer

cutting edge and research-supported treatment by a team of highly

trained therapists. PVD Psychological Associates serves adults, college

students, and adolescents, and they are an affirming practice that is

well-versed in serving LGBTQ individuals and their families.


Tri-County Community Action Agency - Johnston


A non-profit agency that provides a highly diverse and comprehensive

range of services where LGBTQ patients can feel safe, welcome, and

cared for. Tri-County’s health centers have already been designated

as Safe Zones, and now the Community Action Agency hopes to

improve access to preventive medical, behavioral, and dental services

for LGBTQ patients.


St. Mary’s Home for Children - North Providence


An organization with the mission of creating an environment of

healing and hope for children and their families. Recently, St. Mary’s has

been working toward assessing the needs of its diverse population

of clients and has implemented a standard of care with a focus on

its LGBTQ youth.


Lifespan Physician Group Lifestyle

Medicine Center (LPG) - Providence


The center provides evidence-based practice in assisting individuals

and families to adopt and sustain behaviors that can improve their

health and quality of life. LPG offers both individual and group

lifestyle medicine services and its methods focus on four main areas:

physical activity, nutrition, substance use, and stress management. LPG

understands that there are patients who may be reluctant to reveal

their sexual orientation or gender identity to their care team and is

working to provide a welcoming healthcare setting.


Aldersbridge Communities –

East Providence, Providence, and Woonsocket


Elder care communities that provide assisted living, independent

living, long-term care, skilled nursing, and rehabilitation for older

persons to live in comfort, with dignity and purpose. Aldersbridge

feels that for a person to be most comfortable in their new home

or workplace they must be accepted and respected in all ways. If a

senior resident chooses to come out or learns that a family member

or friend is LGBTQ, Aldersbridge wants to assure them they are in a

comfortable, supportive, and healthy environment.

Studies show that the LGBTQ community has particular

difficulty accessing quality healthcare. Sexual minorities are more likely

to rate their health as poor compared to non-LGBTQ individuals.

There are, however, a growing number of healthcare providers who

are educated, or are willing to learn, about how to provide culturally

competent care for sexual minorities. The BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe

Zone Program aims to close this gap.

Certification requirements for BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone

providers include staff training specific to the care of LGBTQ patients;

protection for patients and staff from discrimination based on gender

identity or expression; inclusive bathroom policies; affirming forms

and procedures; and a public commitment to connecting with and

serving LGBTQ people. Since 2016, BCBSRI has certified more than

a dozen Safe Zones in Rhode Island to help ensure the LGBTQ

community can find the care they need. View the full list of providers

at bcbsri.com/safezones.

Each of us deserves safe and affirming medical care, regardless

of our gender identity or sexuality. While there is no one answer,

BCBSRI is working toward ensuring high-quality, affordable healthcare

for all Rhode Islanders. It is our hope that the LGBTQ Safe Zone

Program will continue to help improve access for LGBTQ patients

in receiving the best healthcare possible.


Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island is the state’s leading health

insurer and covers more than 450,000 members. The company is an

independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For

more information, visit www.bcbsri.com, follow us on Twitter @BCBSRI, and

like us on Facebook at fb.com/bcbsri. To learn more about Safe Zones,

visit bcbsri.com/safezones.

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Options Magazine

PO Box 6406

Providence, RI 02940

(401) 217-3939

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