Substance use and incarceration disproportionately impact Black and brown people. The War on Drugs, a failed, racist, agenda, has only perpetuated the problem. And far too often, systems only begin to pay attention to drug crises (methamphetamine, opioids, etc.) when white, suburban communities are impacted. PreventEd must be willing to challenge and change the way we have historically been complicit in this oppression so that we can create solutions that prevent and reduce substance use disorders in our entire community.
Our mission to provide education on substance use must include how policies and practices have negatively impacted people of color, along with advocacy and involvement in efforts to reduce the negative impact. We must also address how we talk about substance use disorders. We know, for example, that white people with substance use disorders are most often channeled into treatment and recovery groups. But it is a sad reality that for far too long Black and brown people, particularly Black men, are hesitant to ask for help with a substance use disorder for fear of being criminalized. This has never been okay, and it is up to us to use our megaphone to highlight this disparity.
We have established the goal of eliminating the disparity of employee experiences at PreventEd, from hiring to retiring, within 3 years. We believe that focusing on our internal team will prepare us to better serve our clients and students. To this end, we have identified benchmarks and developed outcomes to measure our success and track our progress.
As participants in the United Way’s pilot program with Dr. Kira Banks, we have been called to take systems-level action. For example, the program has propelled us to: establish a common language, develop an M/WBE purchasing policy, and create a budget line item for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work.
We have engaged with Undo Bias, a consulting firm, to accompany us in our racial equity journey. They have led us in various caucusing exercises and have helped us create a Racial Equity Committee in November 2019. Committee members are employees and board members who are passionate and committed to the advancement of racial equity. They are united in their mission to identify racial disparities within PreventEd, assist leadership in addressing those disparities, and inspire and educate their teammates to actively incorporate racial equity into their daily lives and work.
In August 2020, the Racial Equity Committee developed and disseminated an internal survey on racial climate at the organization. Data was disaggregated by race and prompted us to create an agency-wide confidential reporting process and engage leadership at a deeper level in the DEI work.
Other ongoing DEI efforts at PreventEd include a bi-monthly book club, weekly emails highlighting the accomplishments of people of color, participation in a non-profit DEI networking group, professional development opportunities, and processing/debriefing spaces in times of unrest/unease.