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While I was sleeping...

November 8, 2010
by Ann Borders
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I’ve always made it a point to be certain that our organizational values, policies, and procedures appropriately address diversity, inclusion, and cultural awareness in all aspects of clinical care and human resources management—and that our actions genuinely reflect those guiding principles I’ve been sure to review the annual Affirmative Action Report and to include it on the board’s agenda for further scrutiny. In new employee orientation sessions, I emphasize our organizational values and the importance of an inclusionary culture—and I reiterate the expectation that all staff embrace diversity, cultural competence, and inclusion. I have sought out minority providers and have proposed working affiliations with them. Overall, I was pretty proud of our organization’s track record. 

Good CEO, right? Not so fast.

In 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau predicted that by the year 2042 more than half of America's population will be made up of minority groups. (That’s eight years sooner than the Bureau’s 2006 projections.)

 In our organization, the percentage of clients who are identified as minorities increased from 8.1% to 20.5% over the past five years. I must have been sleeping as that significant change in demographics crept up on us. I suppose I was dozing as our most recent EEOC annual report noted that the number of minorities in leadership roles had slipped. And I must have been unconscious to have missed the fact that our organizational dialogue about cultural awareness in treatment and in the workplace had just about stopped in its tracks.

Fortunately, our organization—and I suspect all of yours, as well—has people who are both eager and able to help steer us back on course. I contacted Denise Senter, a staff therapist who I consider first to be a “wise person” and second a wise person who is also African American. When I presented our dilemma to Denise, I learned that she possesses a wealth of knowledge on the subject, that she has an abundance of resources at her disposal, and lo and behold, that she serves as trainer on the very topics that we need to bring to the forefront. (Seek out an employee and chances are that you will find a gold mine much of the time!)

With the help of Denise and other staff, we have come up with ideas for moving forward. Recommendations will be fleshed out by some of the groups mentioned below, and will be finalized within a few months. Here is the preliminary plan:

Ø Charter a Cultural Awareness Council to address cultural diversity and minority issues in treatment and within the workplace.

Ø Appoint a Cultural Awareness Coordinator to chair the Cultural Awareness Council, serve as a resource on cultural diversity matters, and advise the leadership on minority issues.

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Ann, this demonstrates why the most successful and perceptive people rely so much on good data. Put another way: "What gets measured gets managed."

Bet your peers will be reviewing the steps you've taken to address the issue. Anyone else have similar findings to share?

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Ann Borders

President and CEO, Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc

http://cumminsbhs.org/

Ann Borders is president and CEO of Cummins Behavioral Health Systems, Inc., serving eight...