'Equitable care': New Orleans EMS unveils optional Black Lives Matter pins for employees

The EMS director said the pins are meant "as a reminder to us and our patients that we are committed to providing compassionate, culturally sensitive, and socially equitable care"


Ramon Antonio Vargas
The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

NEW ORLEANS — Saying the agency wants to express solidarity with Black patients, New Orleans Emergency Services is offering employees the chance to wear a pin supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, officials announced Thursday.

The move, coming in the middle of Black History Month, echoes EMS' previous decision to allow paramedics, emergency medical technicians and other employees the option to wear rainbow-colored badges and pins in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer communities.

Agency brass has said those Pride pins and badges were meant to signal to LGBTQ patients — who can sometimes be reluctant to seek help from first responders — that it was safe to call on the city's paramedics.

Dr. Emily Nichols, EMS director, said the new Black Lives Matter pins are likewise meant "as a reminder to us and our patients that we are committed to providing compassionate, culturally sensitive, and socially equitable care."

Marches and demonstrations to support Black Lives Matter and bring awareness to police brutality against Black people were held across the U.S. last summer, including the New Orleans area.

"The pins are in no way meant to diminish or dishonor the tireless work that our public safety partners perform each day," Nichols said in a prepared statement. "We believe that attention to access and inequity on the front end is the best way to decrease the burden on all first responders and improve the well-being of our community long-term."

Nichols said EMS workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic have seen daily how the Black and Hispanic communities in New Orleans have been hit inordinately hard by the potentially fatal illness. That reality results from "years of social and economic disparity," along with other factors such as racial discrimination and political persecution, Nichols said.

New Orleans EMS has tried to mitigate that in recent years by training its paramedics on unconscious bias as well as reaching out to marginalized communities in recent years.

In May 2019, those efforts led to the agency's appointing a liaison to the LGBTQ community, whose duties would include training first responders on health care conditions that frequently affect LGBTQ people.

Dr. Meg Marino, EMS deputy director, said research shows visual cues such as pins and badges, help patients understand that they are with treatment providers whom they can trust. So this year the agency decided to seek a symbol that would comfort Black people who may be reluctant to trust first responders, settling on a pin that features a black fist atop the base of the fleur-de-lis that is synonymous with New Orleans.

An EMS spokesperson said Marino's brother-in-law, local artist and comic book writer Christopher Marino, designed the pins at no cost to the agency. Employees can choose to wear them above their badges.

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(c)2021 The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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