In last year’s blog post for BIPOC Awareness Month we discussed the documented impact of disparities in mental health access and treatment across BIPOC communities. Unfortunately, these disparities continue to exist within the BIPOC communities. According to VA data, “minority veterans also are more likely to have a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis than non-minorities (5.8 versus 5.0 percent)” (Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017) . Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous communities are all likelier to report “worse experiences than white veterans with respect to access to timely appointments” for VA mental health care (Jones AL, 2016). However, at Cohen Veterans Network (CVN), it’s our vision “that every veteran and family member is able to obtain access to high-quality, effective care that enables them to lead fulfilling and productive lives”.
As a result, we at CVN have taken a multi-pronged approach to improving our ability a serve the veteran and military family population effectively.
This begins as soon as a veteran, service member, or family member begins their journey with CVN. During our intake process, we utilize evidenced based measures to assess all clients equitably for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. We ask about cultural concerns and family histories so that throughout treatment, we can properly consider important factors that may impact care. Additionally our clinicians are trained extensively – and continually receive ongoing training – to provide culturally aware care that incorporates each client’s unique needs into their treatment.
In addition to our day-to-day processes designed to provide inclusive care to our veteran and military families, we have founded a Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Committee to work throughout the year to specifically identify and promote resources related to our efforts to promote inclusive and equitable practices across the network.
In just the last six months, CVN has:
- Administered surveys to Clinicians and Clients to gather helpful insights on the cultural awareness and issues faced in the military community.
- Hosted webinars to highlight ways to improve our awareness of diversity, equity, and inclusion issues as it relates to client care.
- Shared resources with our clinical staff to better understand racial trauma.
- Shared a statement condemning violence against the AANHPI community.
- Endorsed the Armed Forces Transgender Dependent Protection Act – supporting the need for availability of appropriate healthcare for transgender military family members
- Encouraged a Day of Giving and Reflection to give team members across the country the ability to identify ways to make an impact in their communities.
… and this is only just the beginning. We look forward to new ways we can pursue diversity, equity, and inclusion for our staff and the veteran and military families we serve.
By Danielle Besuden, MSSW, LICSW
Manager, Clinical Programs, Cohen Veterans Network
VA. Minority veterans report: Military service history and VA benefit utilization statistics.Washington, DC: Department of Veterans Affairs; 2017b.
Jones AL, Mor MK, Cashy JP, Gordon AJ, Haas GL, Schaefer JH Jr., Hausmann LR. Racial/ethnic differences in primary care experiences in patient-centered medical homes among veterans with mental health and substance use disorders. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2016;31(12):1435–1443.