SAFE Project’s goal is to save one life every day. One life every day from the addiction epidemic, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or socioeconomic status. We cannot achieve our goal if we fail to acknowledge that the Black community, along with other minority and marginalized communities, have long been underserved, underrepresented, and dismissed. We also know from experience that times of hardship magnify inequalities.
Over the past several months, two national crises have forced us to step back, reassess our portfolios of work for gaps, and clarify our path forward: the COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice. While COVID-19 is a health crisis and racial injustice is a social construct, these pandemics overlap.
Initially, the risk for COVID-19 was linked to individual traits such as age, sex, and underlying health conditions. Digging deeper, evidence now shows that social factors such as race, location of testing sites, and access to quality healthcare all contribute to COVID-19 deaths.
An article from StatNews examined a variety of COVID-19 studies focused on race. The studies found that:
- Black patients had 2.7 times the odds of hospitalization as non-Hispanic white patients. An analysis by scientists also found that the death rate in predominantly non-white areas is six times that in non-Hispanic white regions.
- 34% of Black people and 15% of white individuals are covered by Medicaid, meaning they are less likely to have a primary care physician.
- Without a primary care provider, Black people who thought they were infected were likely to be turned away from hospitals more often. Someone without a primary care doctor faced barriers getting into the ER quickly.
Beyond COVID-19, the quality of healthcare Black and marginalized populations receive for various conditions, including substance use disorder prevention and recovery and mental health services, is often lower than in predominantly white areas.
Our Way Forward
We believe systemic racism and social factors can be changed, and access to health care, mental health services, and substance use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery must be improved.
It is within our power, collectively, to break down the barriers in our public health infrastructure that have propelled oppression. We will continue to demand equity in access to healthcare services and drive our organization forward with purposeful action to address these issues.
SAFE Project is taking a fresh look at diversity, equity, and inclusion within the organization. Just as everyone’s recovery path is different, our path is unique as well. As we move forward, we will:
- Take time to have ongoing tough conversations.
- Give a voice to marginalized communities through diverse storytelling and highlight how these communities are impacted by substance use disorders and mental health illness.
- Continue to build out a Resources for Diverse Populations page.
- Counter racial and social inequities by breaking down barriers to prevention, treatment, and recovery from addiction.
- Evaluate initiatives and programs with a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens for continuous improvement.
- Ensure our print and digital assets represent the diversity of this country and are accessible and inclusive.
- Hired an outside diversity, equity, and inclusion professional with expertise in the needs of the behavioral health community to work with SAFE Project leadership and the entire SAFE team to create a culture of inclusion.
Black Lives Matter. SAFE Project will be expanding our team’s knowledge and understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion through specialized training to help guide our work. We are committed to holding ourselves accountable through transparency. Starting in September, we will be compiling and sharing quarterly reports to track our work and progress. To receive these updates, along with our newsletters and other email communications, please click here.
SAFE Project reaffirms our dedication to supporting those with substance use disorder and mental health challenges, and their families, by making programs, supports, and resources available and scalable.
SAFE Project Team