NEWPORT, R.I. (October 28, 2021) – Newport Mental Health and Women’s Resource Center (WRC) have received designation as LGBTQ Safe Zones by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI). These are the first two Newport County agencies to become part of the BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone Program, which certifies providers and community-based organizations identifying themselves as supporters of the LGBTQ community.
“Every person deserves safe and healthy relationships,” WRC Executive Director Jessica Walsh said. “Domestic violence does not discriminate, and can impact anyone regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or social status – though the burden of domestic abuse is not shared equally. Domestic violence occurs in LGBTQ relationships at similar or higher rates than in heterosexual, cisgender relationships, and studies show gay men and bisexual women are at an increased risk for experiencing severe physical violence in intimate relationships.”
She continued, “At the Women’s Resource Center, we understand the critical need for trauma-informed support and affirming care for LGBTQIA+ survivors. All survivors deserve to be supported, believed and valued, especially those who face additional barriers including discrimination and differential treatment in their journey to safety and rebuilding their lives after abuse.”
“The Safe Zone certification goes far beyond gender neutral bathrooms, although that’s a good start,” said Newport Mental Health CEO and President Jamie Lehane. “Inclusion and equity are paramount, and we want to be sensitive and welcoming to all populations, cultures and ethnicities. For the Safe Zone Program, all of our staff, including receptionists, clinicians, finance and others, have undergone extensive training. We’ve modified our intake forms, emails, and other documentation. We want everyone who comes through our doors to know we are here for them and will do whatever it takes to help them in an affirming and positive way.”
BCBSRI launched its LGBTQ Safe Zone program in 2016. The program has now certified more than 40 Safe Zone providers in locations across Rhode Island representing a number of specialties, primary and dental health and behavioral health services. This program helps facilitate access to affirming care for this under-served community with specific healthcare needs, one that has historically struggled with healthcare interactions, and has often forgone necessary regular care due to feelings of alienation, stress, frustration and fear. Certified entities must meet a number of requirements reflecting policies, procedures, and physical space related to equity and inclusion for LGBTQ patients.
“Seeing the Safe Zone logo in the window helps members of the LGBTQ community know that they will receive culturally competent, inclusive and affirming care when they walk through that door,” said Carolyn Belisle, BCBSRI managing director of corporate social responsibility. “We applaud Newport Mental Health and Women’s Resource Center for their tremendous commitment.”
“The Newport Health Equity Zone’s LGBTQ+ Health working group is thrilled to see these two Island agencies take the huge strides to achieve the BCBSRI Safe Zone designation,” said Rex LeBeau, strategy specialist at the Health Equity Zone. “It’s a great first step in the commitment to serve LGBTQIA+ clients. We hope that now more local LGBTQIA+ people will receive the healthcare and support that they need and will feel like their community sees them, cares about them, and will continue to adopt affirming care practices.”
The Women’s Resource Center provides programs and services for domestic violence victims and their families, including counseling supports, shelter and housing services and court and family advocacy. The 24/7 statewide confidential Helpline can be reached at 1-800-494-8100, or via online chat at www.ricadv.org.
Newport Mental Health, a federally Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic offers evidence-based mental health services to the 82,000 residents of Newport County, regardless of ability to pay. On an annual basis, NMH serves over 1,450 high risk adults and children at its five locations.
To learn more about the BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone Program, find certified providers or for providers interested in certification requirements, visit bcbsri.com/providers/safezone-program.
For more information:
Contact Sandy Oxx, Newport Mental Health Communication Manager
email@example.com 401-846-1213 ext. 139
or Becky Knight, office manager, Women’s Resource Center