TAAP Stands in Solidarity Against Social Injustice
June 8, 2020
"We have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times… What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.” These are the words of Robert Kennedy on the night of Martin Luther King’s death in 1968.
As I read this I was reminded of the phrase, “the alcoholic who still suffers,” the familiar phrase from the 5th Tradition of Alcoholics Anonymous. As addiction professionals we see the suffering of those caught in the despair of substance use disorder every day. We are called to bring love, wisdom, and compassion to all we do, while rejecting any type of injustice toward anyone. While TAAP’s association focus is the interests of the addiction professional and those we serve, as individuals we believe ALL people deserve basic human rights and must be treated with dignity and humanity. TAAP stands in solidarity with the African American community during this very challenging time in history.
It saddens me greatly that Kennedy’s words spoken during a tragic time in our nation’s history 52 years ago are just as appropriate today, and that his call for justice for all has not been accomplished. Have we made any progress toward being a country in which we all believe, “All men are created equal.”?
Each of us must answer that question, and search our hearts for what we can do differently and how we can be better, as individuals. As addiction professionals, we must look at what we can do to insure equal justice – meaning equal hope, help, and opportunity - for all those suffering from addiction and the havoc it creates in families and communities. For far too many the challenges faced to establish and maintain recovery are multiplied by poverty, discrimination, social injustice and limited opportunity. Their access to a full continuum of quality intervention, treatment, and recovery services are limited, if they exist at all. People of color make up a disproportionate number of these individuals who lack full access to the help they need for successful recovery.
In many treatment programs and recovery support meetings the faces are overwhelmingly white. Our addiction workforce does not adequately represent the cultural diversity of those in need of our services. We must examine what we can do to make a difference, to make our programs accessible and welcoming to all in need, to identify gaps and work to fill them, to remove the disparities in quality of care. Each of us must take these questions into our work settings, our professional networks, and our own hearts.
TAAP has a long history of advocacy. We speak out about the lack of resources in publicly funded programs due to an inadequate rate structure for state contracted providers. We have promoted alternatives to incarceration through diversion courts and have advocated for treatment within the walls of prisons. We established certifications for criminal justice professionals to insure those professionals are adequately trained. We have been a strong supporter of peer recovery services, allowing for easier access to recovery support - a doorway into recovery for many. Why is this important? The painful reality is our brothers and sisters of color are over represented in these services and we must speak on their behalf. We will continue to highlight the disparities and call for just and fair opportunities for all with legislators and policymakers.
But it is not enough. We must examine how to expand our workforce to have diversity representative of those we serve, or more accurately, those who need our services. We need to do a better job of recruiting people of color into our profession. Through advocacy we obtained educational assistance for addiction counselors, especially for those who will serve underserved populations and communities. We have a workforce committee who is actively collecting resources so our members have easy access for obtaining or advancing their education goals. We want to assist anyone pursuing our profession with the support they need. I invite people of color to submit applications to present at our conferences, to volunteer to serve on committees, and to run for elected positions on the state and local boards. We need individuals in leadership who represent the diversity of our communities, and to be present to lead the way for new people in the profession.
We know the key elements in helping those struggling with addiction – hope, compassion, respect, and connection, all things desperately needed as we continue to face the truth of the social injustice. We know how to instill hope and how to treat others with compassion and respect. We know how to help others make meaningful connection. As a professional association we can call for real change, but that change must occur in the hearts and minds of each individual person. I challenge myself to examine my heart and all of my thoughts and actions in all I do. Am I instilling hope? Am I treating ALL with absolute respect and heartfelt compassion? Am I seeking to make meaningful connection regardless of how someone may differ from me? I ask each of you to join me in this challenge. Together we can join in the call for justice and equality, and come together as one community.
I welcome your thoughts and any suggestions for how TAAP can increase our membership and our workforce to be representative of the diversity in Texas.
With great respect for all my colleagues and on behalf of the TAAP Board of Directors,