Wood River Health Designated as an LGBTQ+ Safe Zone

December 14, 2023

Wood River Health was recently designated by Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI) as an LGBTQ+ Safe Zone, certifying that it provides care that meets the specific needs of patients who identify as LGBTQ+. Safe Zones are represented by a broad range of adult and pediatric services including behavioral health, primary care, medical imaging, physical therapy, obstetrics and gynecology.

Certification requirements for BCBSRI LGBTQ+ 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.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ population don’t seek the health care services they require to maintain or improve their health, especially when they have previously experienced discrimination from a health care provider. “Health care access is stark throughout much of our nation, but the access rate is even bleaker among the LGBTQ+ population,” stated Jonathan Gates, MDCM, Wood River Health’s Chief Medical Officer. “As a Safe Zone, Wood River Health has proven that we provide safe, affirming, and inclusive care to the members of the LGBTQ+ community.”

The following facilities have sites newly designated as Safe Zones:

  • Wood River Health
  • Cultivating Minds Counseling Services
  • Rhode Island Medical Imaging
  • Thrive Behavioral Health
  • Hasbro Children’s Hospital rehabilitation services
  • Pappas OPT Middletown (occupational and physical therapy)
  • The Miriam Hospital Outpatient Rehab Clinic
  • The Holistic Heart (therapy services)
  • East Bay Community Action Program (four locations)
  • Tides Family Services (cognitive behavioral therapy, structured recreation, afterschool programming and more)
  • Women & Infants Hospital OGCC (obstetrics and gynecology)

“We applaud all of these providers for taking the initiative to join our Safe Zone program and are so pleased to welcome multi-site practices in their entirety, including all locations of RIMI and Tides Family Services,” said Farah Shafi, M.D., M.B.A., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer for BCBSRI. “Being responsive to the unique needs of this community isn’t just respectful, it’s essential to quality and equitable healthcare. It encourages LGBTQ patients to seek the care they need when they might otherwise put off getting help due to feelings of alienation, fear and stress.”

Since BCBSRI launched the program in 2016, 117 healthcare sites have achieved BCBSRI Safe Zone designation. Scott Gowrie, Safe Zone program lead for BCBSRI said, “We’re so grateful that providers all across Rhode Island and representing so many different types of programs and services, have joined us in this campaign to better serve our long and historically underserved LGBTQ community. The fact that in such a short period of time so many providers have come to us and demonstrated they are truly welcoming of this population speaks to its success and growing popularity.”

BCBSRI solicits applications and designates new LGBTQ Safe Zones twice a year. To learn more about the program, or if you are a provider or practice looking to become certified, visit the BCBSRI LGBTQ Safe Zone website.

Pictured in photo:

  • Scott Gowrie, Safe Zone Program Lead, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island
  • Kathy Vizcaino, HR Generalist, Wood River Health
  • Alison L. Croke, President and CEO, Wood River Health
  • Regan Pennypacker, Board Chair, Wood River Health

About Wood River Health

Since 1976, Wood River Health has delivered medical, dental and social services to the communities of southwestern Rhode Island and southeastern Connecticut. Its mission is to provide its patients with high-quality and affordable health care services through a compassionate, team-based approach. Its vision is for every member of its community to experience physical, emotional and social well-being.

A private, non-profit Community Health Center, Wood River Health is devoted to providing quality patient care to over 8,600 patients. It is recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) as a Patient-Centered Medical Home. As a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), Wood River Health receives funds from the HRSA Health Center Program to provide primary care services in underserved areas. For more information, visit