Like many organizations, institutions, and businesses around the nation, Kitsap Mental Health Services’ leadership responded to the tragic death of George Floyd by holding listening sessions during June 2020 with our staff, asking what staff felt might be needed within our own organization to address systemic racism and to better support staff, our clients, and our community. Out of that conversation, our leadership requested voluntary participation in an Equity and Inclusion Committee that includes staff and leadership from across the agency. This committee began meeting August 2020 and was instrumental in preparing our vision for equity and inclusion. By March 2021, Committee recommendations for next steps and action plan were developed, shared, and embraced by the Leadership Team. Immediate next steps included hiring of a Manager of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, conducting internal, client and community surveys and assessments, and moving forward with additional staff trainings. As reflected in our pledge to work against individual and institutional racism and discrimination in its many forms, we believe this work is necessary in our own organization and in organizations and institutions everywhere to achieve a society where racism and discrimination no longer exists, and everyone is treated with respect and dignity.
A Letter To Our Community From Joe Roszak, CEO – Racism Must End
Like so many of us, we at Kitsap Mental Health Services are abhorred at the death of George Floyd and the long list of those who have suffered fear, emotional and physical harm and death in this nation.
Racism must end. The death of George Floyd, and the many unarmed individuals before him, is indefensible. We as individuals, as a community and as an agency have been witness to the excessive violence, tragedy, horror, and death that has resulted from long standing racism throughout our nation, our state and in our communities.
In this day and age Black men in America are more likely to die at the hands of police. Black women are more likely to die from postpartum complications. Black children are less likely to get the dental care they need. Black trans women are more likely to be murdered. And there is more. Along with Black families, Hispanic, Asian, and Native Americans have also borne the pain and grief of our nation’s deeply rooted violence, injustice, health and economic disparities among persons of color. This is sadly illustrated in studies linking the trauma of this long sustained exposure to violence and racism to higher rates of chronic stress, long-term impacts to mental health, chronic disease and more. The COVID pandemic has illustrated this disparity for peoples of color now more than ever. This is America today. Let’s not make it the America of tomorrow.
Sadly, our Country still sustains a deeply rooted systemic racism. Individually and together, we are charged to be better. I am more resolved than ever to continue that fight in my everyday life. All of us can join together to stop racism from ever showing its ugly and deadly face in our homes, our workplaces, and in our life in the community. This long history of violence and injustice didn’t happen overnight. It will take the commitment and the dedicated, sustained effort of all of us to build on the visionary work started decades ago but not yet finished to eliminate this disease of racism and violence, and to create a society where everyone belongs, and a society we want our children to inherit.