Message FROM CEO:
As a community behavioral health agency, Frontier Behavioral Health has a long history of serving some of our community’s most vulnerable, disenfranchised and marginalized populations. Critical to the fulfillment of our mission is that we do our best to ensure the services we provide are welcoming and responsive to the needs of diverse populations. Equally critical, however, is that we recognize the need to continually challenge ourselves to learn, grow and expand our awareness and efforts in this important area.
Individuals living with a mental illness are frequently stigmatized and discriminated against. They experience poorer overall health. They have a shorter life expectancy. They are often socially isolated. They are more likely to live in poverty. They have less access to affordable housing, healthy food, and numerous other resources. They are also more likely to die by suicide.
Statistics related to these realities have been well documented in recent years. Less well known to the general public is that many of these statistics also apply to various non-majority populations including (but not limited to) Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning individuals – irrespective of whether they are living with a mental illness.
Because of these staggering statistics and other realities affecting non-majority populations, it is not enough for us to simply “not discriminate” in the work we do. It is not enough to state that we are welcoming of all people, or that we use translator services. It is not enough to provide staff with “cultural competency” training or to offer “special population consultations.” While these established practices and others are very important, we have a responsibility to do more.
As I think about what exactly this means, the oftentimes over-used adage “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem” comes to mind.
If there was ever any doubt about the systemic racism in our society that allows racial violence and discrimination to occur – directly or tacitly – it was erased in dramatic fashion this past year as we all bore witness to violence against people of color that played out on the national stage.
If there was ever any doubt about the vast health inequities that exist in our country based on color, this was similarly erased as we witnessed the hugely disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on people of color in our country.
While we could argue that none of us bears direct responsibility for these tragic events and circumstances, we must also recognize the fact that the societal attitudes and institutional biases that either contribute to or create the space for them is something we collectively share some responsibility for through both our actions and our inaction.
One way we have furthered our efforts at FBH in this important area is to create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) committee. Composed of a diverse representation of 16 staff from throughout the agency, the committee meets on a regular basis and will play an important role in helping us continually expand our understanding and awareness of issues and opportunities related to diverse communities and populations.
One significant contribution the DEI committee has already made is to assist in the development of an organizational DEI Commitment Statement. This statement will be incorporated into FBH’s internal and external communications as both a message to our community and a reminder to ourselves. It will serve as a guidepost for decisions. And it will also serve as a mirror for important self-reflection at both an individual and organizational level as we work together to address the issues that contribute to the discrimination, violence and health disparities experienced by non-majority populations in our nation and in our community.
At FBH we value diversity, equity and inclusivity in all our relationships – with clients, communities and each other. We believe all people are deserving of dignity and respect. We are committed to continually striving to increase understanding of differences, supporting a culture of belongingness, and addressing biases and social structures that contribute to the perpetuation of social injustices, health inequities and marginalization of any groups or individuals.
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