CHD recently released its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) Plan, which outlines ongoing efforts—as well as immediate and longer-term goals— to “build an inclusive culture that encourages, supports, and celebrates the diverse voices of our employees, the people we serve, and the communities in which we work,” according to the Plan.
The Plan was finalized by the nine-member DE&I Committee. The latest iteration of this group has been meeting since early fall of 2021.
The DE&I Plan will be further developed and revised in partnership with the participation of staff, persons served, and stakeholders, using a broad range of resources, including the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Racial Equity Data Road Map.
“This Plan is shaped by CHD’s mission and reflects our ongoing efforts to ensure our agency is a welcoming place for all,” said CHD President and CEO Jim Goodwin. “I look forward to exploring ways we can do more to make certain that every individual in the CHD community feels heard, appreciated, and empowered. Diversity, equity, and inclusion should always be at the heart of what we do to support our staff and those we serve.”
The members of the DE&I Committee, which meets twice a month, are M. Andy Beresky, director of recovery supports; Freda Driscoll-Sbar, VP of compliance; Nicole Gagne, chief operating officer; Jalil Johnson, VP of medical services; Jerome Jenkins, peer specialist; Kelly Knox, director of grants; John Roberson, VP of Children and Families; Tyrese Tillman, assistant program director of FSS, PA, Safety Zone, and TLC Program; and Amy Woods-Sawyers, assistant program director Adult Mental Health, CT.
“Our committee is fully committed to making some really strong inroads into who we are right now as an organization, what our strengths are as well as where areas of improvement might be,” said Committee Chair Kelly Knox. “Next we will work toward the development of an action plan that will build on our already strong foundation in diversity, equity, and inclusion.”
The DE&I Committee’s goals for FY 2022 include implementing a CHD Diversity Alliance, composed of CHD employees and stakeholders, which will meet twice a year. Another goal is to mature the DE&I Committee, which would involve taking on such responsibilities as receiving and integrating information and education related to DE&I, and planning and deploying trainings and events—as well as developing partnerships across CHD to “further the understanding and inclusion, and valuing the diverse people served by and working with CHD,” according to the Plan.
The Committee also aims to collect and analyze data to assess progress and plan further steps to grow DE&I across CHD.
VP of Human Resources Carol Fitzgerald said that one of CHD’s strategic goals is to be “the workplace of choice for those working and aspiring to work in our field, with key elements related to the recruitment and retention of a highly engaged staff.” She noted that essential to achieving that goal is creating, enhancing and promoting an inclusive workplace that promotes and values diversity, equity and inclusion. “The DE&I Committee’s work will help inform and guide the agency,” she said. “I’m delighted to work with its members in support of everyone here at CHD.”
Plans for DE&I initiatives have been long in the making, but were accelerated by a summer of racial and social reckoning after the murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, MN. As with many other organizations and companies, the outcry following this incident prompted CHD to advance discussions and actions around the agency, taking a look at its practices for engaging staff and people served of all backgrounds. On August 21 and 22, 2020, CHD held employee forums on race and social justice, where feedback stressed the importance of furthering conversations—and welcoming difficult dialogue—around race and equity, as well as addressing systemic and ingrained prejudices, along with the need for diversity training.
At times the DE&I process was slowed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but lately the DE&I Committee has stepped up efforts to produce a DE&I Plan that reflects CHD’s aspirations to continue to create an inclusive and equitable climate.
According to Knox, the DE&I Committee is committed to embracing the principles of cultural humility, which is a process of reflection and lifelong learning that involves self-awareness of one’s own cultural biases and awareness of the cultural issues of others. “We all have our own biases, but the people on the Committee are very committed to understanding our own biases and how they might play out in the work environment,” she said. “And I think, as a whole, CHD is very inclusive and welcoming. However, there may be pockets within the agency that need a little work.”
Evaluation of CHD’s growth and adjustment to the Plan will occur annually through the DE&I Committee.
“The work of the DE&I Committee is a wonderful opportunity to uncover and break down systemic barriers leading to a more equitable and inclusive organization,” said Knox. “I am excited to be a part of such important work.”
Those who would like to ask questions or provide thoughts and ideas can do so by contacting [email protected].