Bergen New Bridge, RWJBarnabas take pride in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Leader designation

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center and RWJBarnabas Health facilities were both designated as “Leaders in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest civil rights organization working in support of the LGBTQ+ community.

The organizations were among many in New Jersey to be recognized.

The survey of health care facilities examines the policies and practices dedicated to the equitable treatment and inclusion of their LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. A record 1,065 health care facilities participated in the 2024 HEI survey; 384 of those earned the top designation.

The HEI evaluates and scores health care facilities on detailed criteria falling under five central pillars:

  • Nondiscrimination and staff training;
  • LGBTQ+ patient services and support;
  • Employee benefits and policies;
  • Patient and community engagement;
  • Responsible citizenship.

At Bergen New Bridge, the Bergen Center aims to provide gender-affirming hormone therapy, HIV care, pre-exposure prophylaxis and more — while making patients feel welcome while delivering high-quality compassionate care.

Bergen New Bridge Medical Center CEO Deb Visconi praised the center’s continued efforts in supporting and reaching equitable health care. She said the LGBTQ+ Health and Wellness Center was designed to meet the community’s needs.

“This is the fourth year that our medical center has earned this important recognition, and I am incredibly proud of the work we do for the LGBTQ+ community,” Visconi said. “Earning the top score in the HEI Index validates our commitment to providing access to high quality, equitable and compassionate care to the LGBTQ+ community through our LGBTQ+ Health & Wellness Center.

“We are dedicated to creating an environment where the community feels safe, supported and respected so they seek out the care they need without delay.”

RWJBarnabas Health Vice President of Corporate Office of Diversity & Inclusion Suzette Robinson also commended her group’s effort and reinforced its vision for reaching equality.

“We are proud to be leading the way in New Jersey in providing health care services for the LGBTQ+ community and to be recognized by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation as Leaders in LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality,” she said. “RWJBarnabas Health remains committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect and ensuring all patients feel welcomed and able to get the high-quality care they need and deserve at all stages of their life.”

RWJBarnabas Health facilities recognized and redesignated include:

  • Clara Maass Medical Center in Belleville;
  • Community Medical Center in Toms River;
  • Cooperman Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston;
  • Jersey City Medical Center;
  • Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch;
  • Newark Beth Israel Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey in Newark;
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick;
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Rahway;
  • Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Somerset in Somerville.

This year’s HEI comes as LGBTQ+ adults are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ+ adults to be “treated unfairly or with disrespect by a doctor or health care provider” in the last three years, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The impact of anti-LGBTQ+ legislation combined with a history of discrimination in health care settings has the potential to cause even more LGBTQ+ people to delay or avoid seeking health care, which makes the HEI even more salient for those looking to find LGBTQ+-inclusive care.

Key highlights from the report include:

  • Targeted health disparities reduction plans: Encouragingly, 71% have an official plan for reducing health disparities that specifically includes LGBTQ+ patients in addition to race, ethnicity and linguistic concerns;
  • Work to be done: Only 27% have an externally promoted specific program to provide patient navigation or advocacy services to transgender patients;
  • Bias elimination and welcoming interactions: Just over half (53%) have a policy or policies that specifically outline procedures and practices aimed at eliminating bias and insensitivity and ensuring appropriate, welcoming interactions with transgender patients;
  • EHR SOGI data: Major increases are seen in the number of health care facilities collecting sexual orientation and gender identity-related data in their Electronic Health Records systems. Seven of the eight relevant data points had double-digit increases;
  • Pronouns in Electronic Health Records: The ability to collect and display a patient’s pronouns rose from 44% to 74%. This is an important tool to help prevent misgendering a patient
  • FMLA-equivalent benefits: 38% offer FMLA-equivalent benefits that allow employees to take family and medical leave to care for same-sex partners as well as the children of a same-sex partner, regardless of biological or adoptive status — this is up from 34% in 2022;
  • Comprehensive benefits for domestic partners: 41% provide medical and comprehensive health benefits to domestic partners of benefits-eligible employees, up from 34% in 2022. This is the first increase in this measure since the 2015 Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage;
  • Employee resource groups: 72% have an officially recognized LGBTQ+ employee resource group;
  • Community engagement and support: 92% took part in or supported one or more LGBTQ+ related events or initiatives in their service area.