Bergen New Bridge Medical Center to expand access for LGBTQ community

Deb Visconi knows the health care needs of the LGBTQ community are underserved — and can sometimes be a matter of life or death.

“This community often feels stigmatized in a doctor’s office, so they don’t get their preventative health needs met, whether it’s a mammogram or a prostate screening,” Visconi said.

This lack of care is about to change.

As CEO of Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, Visconi said she is leading the Paramus-based facility to provide an equitable experience for the LGBTQ community. Last week, Visconi announced the development of a LGBTQ Healthcare Center.

Visconi said the center would provide a space for the LGBTQ community where doctors would be sensitive to their unique needs — an important characteristic that often keeps the community home.

She said the center would serve across functions and there would be a primary care doctor, an endocrinologist and a behavioral health specialist, among other services. The most important component, according to Visconi, is education for the doctors and support groups for the LGBTQ community.

The best part? No construction is necessary.

“This effort is redesigning an existing space,” Visconi said, “We don’t have to create a new building or wait six months for construction.”

Visconi said one of the ambulatory centers would serve as the LGBTQ Health Center and include proper signage. She also said one of the key components of this center — doctors trained to meet this community’s needs — already has been underway.

As one of two dozen hospitals in New Jersey to receive the “Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality” recognition in 2019, Bergen New Bridge doctors have participated in online training and live training with subject matter experts.

“We’ve already started (the training), so we will just continue to grow that,” Visconi said.

Visconi said the center would meet the diverse needs of the LGBTQ community.

“Support services and group therapy for patients ranging from school-aged to the elderly community is something we’ll address,” she said. “Our connections with the Gay-Straight Alliance in schools, New Jersey Buddies and Garden State Equality are some of the advocacy groups that we’ll work with to spread the word about our resources.”

Visconi said she is excited for the volume of patients that can utilize the LGBTQ Healthcare Center.

“For this community, it’s going to provide greater access,” she said. “We’ll see patients who have maybe not pursued health care because they’re either embarrassed or stigmatized or don’t have a place where they feel comfortable going.”