Safe Zones In Rhode Island Helping LGBTQ Community
Forming a good relationship with your doctor takes time and trust, but for people who are lesbian, gay, bi, trans or queer that can be a struggle. "Safe Zones" now found across Rhode Island could help change that.
Randy Rice and his partner have come a long way. They've been together for 25 years and were finally able to get legally married in Rhode Island in 2013, but recently they hit a roadblock when it comes to their health care.
"The LGBTQ community wants what any patient wants, they want to be recognized for who they are , they want to be supported, " says Rice.
Rice and his husband realized they couldn't be truly honest with their doctor when it came to their sexuality. "Your relationship with your doctor is as intimate as any relationship, " says Rice.
Things changed...when the couple found a safe zone in Rhode Island... here at the Thundermist health center in West Warwick. "My husband and I dont have to get our guard up when we go to see our health care team, I don't have to choose pronouns , I can just be me, " adds Rice.
Safe zones were created in 2016, and since then... Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island has certified more than 20 practices across the state. "There is a need for this because as research shows those who identify as LGBTQ often defer needed medical care because they just don't feel comfortable seeing providers and this is something I have seen as a gay man, " says Guillame Bagal.
According to Guillame Bagal at Blue Cross Blue Shield, many members of the LGBTQ community have been refused health care at some point in their lives, experiencing abusive language at their doctor's office. Some even reported being physically abused by a health care professional.
In order for a safe zone to get certified, the staff needs to undergo extensive training, the facility needs to offer gender neutral bathrooms and all forms and procedures need to be as inclusive as possible.
Dr. Richmond Ramirez has worked at Thundermist for five years... trained to care for hundreds of transgender patients. "We offer everything, behavioral health, dental, we are trained to give you all inclusive care, " says Ramirez.
For Randy Rice, the safe zones aren't just safe havens, they're places he believes could save lives. "I suspect if you don't feel comfortable with your doctor, you're not sharing everything about your health that you need to share, " adds Rice.