These are wounds that have been on the bodies and souls of our communities for hundreds of years. They have been picked at, prodded, poked, and on far too many occasions, ripped wide open anew. My sincere hope is that this most recent tragic death, which has sparked a truly historic movement, will produce the meaningful change that we all know to be right, just and long overdue. – Jennifer Faison, Executive Director, VACSB
Below are excerpts and messages from some CSBs and state leaders regarding the recent demonstrations and the anguish that fuels them.
An excerpt from Richmond Behavioral Health Authority (RBHA) to the community at large
RBHA stands fearlessly in support of our community and in support of every person who deserves a life free of prejudice, free of brutality, and free of injustice. We know that systemic racism exists. We know that economic disparities exist across our social, economic, educational, criminal justice, and health systems. RBHA is keenly aware of the impact of these disparities and trauma on the mental and physical health of individuals and our community.
An excerpt from Hampton-Newport News CSB (HNNCSB) to the community at large
The Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board stands in support of all who deserve a life free of racism, disparities and injustice. HNNCSB is aware of the trauma and impact that exists due to these inequities and are committed to treating all people equally while providing a safe space to exist and receive care.
An excerpt from Rappahannock Area CSB to the community at large
We are hope starters. We believe there is a spark of hope in even the bleakest situations. We believe that hope should be available to all. We understand that systemic racism extinguishes those sparks. Inequality leads to trauma and heartbreak. We are committed to finding the faintest spark and helping it grow to a guiding light for our community. We are committed to fighting inequality and creating a community where every individual can find hope, healing, and health.
A message from DBHDS Commissioner Alison Land
The tragic death of George Floyd on May 25th, especially following recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, has been horrifying, painful and re-traumatizing for many people across the nation. These three tragic deaths, and far too many others before, were piled on top of the glaring health inequities exposed again by COVID-19.
I cannot fully appreciate the struggles African Americans have had or the pain they are currently feeling but we should be assured there is no place for racism or discrimination of any kind at DBHDS. People of color in our care should expect the same quality services and the same hope for recovery as anyone else. Staff should never feel threatened or bias based on what they look like. We are bonded by a common mission even though we come from diverse backgrounds of race, ethnicity, religion and experiences.
Actions at DBHDS to examine the effects of racism and inequality along with the work to address and remove it are not new to our agency, but we have a long way to go. A few items related to this current environment you might find helpful are:
- All agency deputies will be actively engaging with their division members to listen and understand the impact these events are having and seek input and suggestions on what the agency can do to support our team members now and into the future.
- Your immediate supervisor and the office of human resources are available to you and want to support you and your coworkers should there be a need to discuss any feelings or concerns.
- Chief Deputy Mira Signer and I have been meeting with the Partnership for Equity Advisory Committee (PEAC) about how we can support PEAC in their mission of promoting wellness and achieving behavioral health equity for all Virginians through education, training, and strengthening partnerships between DBHDS, CSBs and community organizations.
- DBHDS’ Office of Behavioral Health Wellness has been working on virtual trainings for this summer on “Race, Racism and Implicit Bias in Behavioral Healthcare.” This should be a very helpful and educational opportunity. Space will unfortunately be limited and we do not have additional details yet on when it will be held or how to sign up yet, but we will provide additional details as soon as they are available. Please be on the lookout for more information in the coming weeks.
The heartbreak from this past week clearly urges us to continue engaging and building on these efforts. The work you do here is so important to the Commonwealth and to the people in our care. They all deserve dignity and respect as do each one of you. DBHDS must strive to be a place that confronts discrimination and cherishes diversity and equality. This is my goal for DBHDS and for myself. I hope it is yours too.
Alison G. Land, FACHE DBHDS Commissioner
A position statement on racism, race-based trauma and behavioral health from the DBHDS Division of Community Services here.
A message from Governor Ralph Northam: here