As our communities respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, it is a difficult time for everyone—especially for those who have been marginalized and those providing essential supports and services. People are facing new and ongoing challenges with physical distancing in crowded shelters, tent encampments, and other congregate sites; paying rent and mortgages; maintaining physical and mental health, wellness, and recovery; accessing health care services for COVID-19, flu, and pre-existing conditions; earning a living wage; and dealing with PTSD symptoms, vicarious trauma, and other traumatic situations.
Top of our minds are the ways in which communities of color are and will be disproportionately impacted during and after this pandemic. When developing strategies to support people during the COVID-19 outbreak, consider the following to ensure more equitable responses in your programs and services:
- Are you including and considering potential impact on people who are Black or African American; American Indian and Alaska Native; Asian; Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander; and Hispanic/Latinx?
- Do the people who are entering, staying in, and being discharged from your programs represent the racial make-up of your overall population?
- Are you outlining objective criteria and measures to decide who you can serve and to limit the extent to which bias influences these decisions when faced with limited resources?
- How are you supporting people to ensure ongoing access to treatment and medications for chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension, substance use disorder, and mental illness?
- Do your frontline workers who cannot work from home have the supports they need (e.g. additional compensation for childcare for children unable to attend school/daycare, masks, gloves, ways to share their fears and challenges)?
Let’s not perpetuate race inequities in the name of crisis. Here are some ways to ensure equitable responses in your programs and services:
- Homeless services and housing programs:
- Assign and refer shelter beds, hotel rooms, and permanent housing accommodations to Black, Brown, and other communities of color proportionately to mirror the racial and ethnic breakdown of those in your programs.
- Prioritize outreach to marginalized communities of color to facilitate access to eviction prevention, unemployment supports, stimulus payments, and other housing stability measures in response to COVID-19.
- Substance use and mental health:
- Seek feedback and leadership from the people you serve about how best to provide peer recovery supports when physically distancing, including digital and other mechanisms for support. Preferences, capability, and access may vary by age, race, disability, socioeconomic status, and other factors.
- Check your biases when discharging people from your programs to make sure Black, Brown, and other communities of color aren’t being disproportionately taken out of your programs.
- Ensure that Black, Brown, and other communities of color are able to access telehealth and other flexible support options to manage medications and ongoing treatment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Join us in making equity the new normal. Email us to discuss additional ways to develop equitable responses tailored to your programs and services. Learn more about our ongoing Equity Initiatives work. We are also sharing COVID-19 related resources for supporting people experiencing challenges with substance use, mental health, recovery, homelessness, and housing on our website and on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
We wish health and strength to you, your families and friends, and the people you work with.
|Regina Cannon, Chief Equity and Impact Officer||Kristen Paquette, CEO|