As we celebrate Juneteenth this month, OMH wants to recognize and honor the amazing contributions, work, and commitment made by African Americans each and every single day.
Juneteenth, which is short for “June Nineteenth,” marks the day when Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to read General Order No. 3 – announcing the end of the Civil War and declaring that all enslaved people were freed. This came more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth commemorates the end to slavery in the United States and is considered the longest-running African American holiday.
This Juneteenth, may we also reflect on how extremely challenging this past year has been for African Americans – with increased racist hate crimes and rhetoric, and COVID-19 disproportionately impacting people of color. OMH recognizes the historic oppression, injustices, and discrimination faced by African Americans and is committed to working to defeat racism and promote equity for all individuals.
OMH has publicly declared racism a public mental health crisis and has worked to implement policies to reduce disparities in access, quality, and treatment outcomes for marginalized populations. OMH has recently included equity components into all Requests For Proposals being released by the agency and has additionally created a number of resources and tip-sheets to increase information sharing and educate individuals on vital topics impacting our communities. These topics include:
Additionally, OMH’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has hosted a number of “Race Dialogues,” which involved difficult but necessary conversations around the importance of recognizing biases, celebrating diversity, and working to be a more inclusive environment for all individuals. These important action-based discussions allowed for a safe-space to share and discuss personal experiences and promote agency-wide changes in the way we interact and engage with one another.
OMH also partnered with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to host a six-part webinar series, “Racism: A Public Mental Health Crisis,” drawing in more than 5,000 individuals who were committed to implementing anti-racist practices at both the organizational and individual levels. This historic webinar series showcased OMH’s commitment to making change and promoting equity across our mental health system.
Although major strides have been made to be more inclusive and anti-racist, the work is far from done. OMH is committed to holding the mental health system accountable for making change and promoting equity and inclusivity at all levels. OMH is ensuring that its providers are engaged in activities that reduce disparities – including hiring diverse staff, recognizing the impact of culture on treatment outcomes and recovery, and ensuring all providers are trained adequately on the importance of recognizing implicit biases.
As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, please join us on focusing our attention toward promoting a more inclusive and equitable place for all.
Dr. Ann Sullivan
New York State Office of Mental Health