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Illinois Association for Behavioral Health launches “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Transformation”

One of Illinois’ leading behavioral health advocate groups has unveiled a strategic plan that launches a multi-year effort to advance a behavioral health care industry diversity, equity, and inclusion transformation in Illinois.

Kicking-off the four-year strategic initiative, the 27-member board of directors of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health (IABH) unanimously adopted a formal resolution* on June 10 that recognizes the Association’s action as “a starting point on our journey to transforming both the Association and the broader behavioral health field.”

“In 2020, IABH took a more active posture in addressing racial and ethnic diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said IABH CEO Jud DeLoss. “As part of our new strategic posture, the Association hired BHK Consulting to work with us and our member agencies to combat racism and better support Black, Indigenous, People and Communities of Color.”

In March 2021, the IABH board of directors approved a 25-page strategic plan developed in collaboration with BHK Consulting CEO Dr. Robert E. Braylock, a leading diversity, equity, and inclusion expert.

“The ambition of our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategic plan reaches not only into our trade association, but also into the communities and neighborhoods where behavioral health is provided to individuals by our providers and into the halls of the state Capitol where behavioral health policy is made by lawmakers,” said DeLoss. “Our strategic plan will equip us to make meaningful and sustainable change in the lives of individuals who depend on us.”

DeLoss pointed to the painful and glaring issue of suicide to highlight behavioral health inequities in Illinois.

In February 2021, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that the overall suicide rate in the state had between 2017 and 2020 dropped by 6.8%, but that the incidence of suicide among Hispanics had in 2020 jumped by 5% and among African Americans it had exploded by 27%.

“Access to mental health care is an important factor regarding mitigating the risk of suicide,” said DeLoss. “Community mental health providers must be present and culturally competent in the neighborhoods most at risk, which are communities of color, and Illinois state government must surge resources and attention into those neighborhoods and to those providers, and a key dimension of IABH’s behavioral health equity transformation is to push policy makers to make the community investments that will, literally speaking, save lives.”

IABH’s new Director of Public Policy, Rick Brown, will have the assignment, among other policy priorities, of driving the behavioral health equity component in conversations with lawmakers and the governor’s office, according to DeLoss.

“Rick will help shape IABH’s behavioral health equity policy and will help convey the message to state policy makers,” said DeLoss. “Given the force of nature that Rick is, he will be a behavioral health change agent that we need and to whom policy makers will respond.”

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