June 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. implored us to act more than 50 years ago with these words:

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”

MAMH is listening and respectfully offers our perspective and pledge in response to the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and too many other Black people. Their senseless deaths and the use of force in many cities to respond to peaceful protests reminds us that the social compact that defines our citizenship is desperately fractured. MAMH supports peaceful protests and decries the actions of those seeking to advance discriminatory and violent agendas counter to protestors’ demands for reform.

Our social compact relies on all of us sharing equally in the benefits and the burdens of the compact. Yet Black people and other people of color in the United States share far fewer of the benefits and much more of the burden. This structural inequality is evident in our shameful history of discriminatory policing, housing and education, as well as the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 infection and death on communities of color.

MAMH's mission promises to work to "eliminate stigma and discrimination and ensure full social, economic, and political inclusion in all aspects of community life." This includes discrimination affecting not only people with mental health conditions, but also people who face unequal burdens and barriers to the protections and benefits of citizenship due to their race, ethnicity, gender identity, or disability status.

MAMH recognizes that racism undercuts the health and well being - including mental health - of individuals and communities. In fact, the traumatic impacts of racism do persist over generations. This is demonstrated by a clear body of evidence identifying "social determinants" of health and showing that the single most important factor predicting many health and mental health outcomes is the zip code in which we are born.

With this communication to our supporters, MAMH is reaffirming our commitment to structural reform to eliminate racism and inequities. We will take the following concrete actions:

  • Create a fresh vision for MAMH policy, legislative, and advocacy work that more effectively integrates the experiences of Black people, other people of color, and those who have had personal experiences with police, corrections, and the public behavioral health system. We will prioritize policies to implement alternatives to police involvement in behavioral health crises, end the criminalization of behavioral health conditions, reduce school expulsions, and prevent adult justice adjudications for emerging adults.

  • Implement mental health promotion initiatives that advance racial equity. Our strategies will include employing public awareness, targeted communications, community engagement, and town hall forums incorporating the voices of individual members and thought leaders representing communities of color.
  • Expand Network of Care Massachusetts to include a specific section dedicated to resources and services offered by behavioral health providers focused on delivering culturally competent care to individuals and families from communities of color.

In Massachusetts, we have laws promising reform but practices that continue to reinforce systemic inequities. At MAMH, we pledge to continue to learn how to be more effective allies, forge new partnerships, and take right action to ensure that all Massachusetts residents share equal opportunities for health and well being.

With hope for change and healing,

Danna Mauch, Ph.D.
President and CEO

Ambassador (Ret.) Barry White
Board Chair