Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Cultivate a More Diverse Workforce

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

Cultivate a More Diverse Workforce

Article excerpt

As behavioral healthcare organizations know all too well, addiction does not discriminate. People of every race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation seek addiction treatment and mental health services. But can a behavioral healthcare organization that does not have a diverse staff and leadership meet the needs of those diverse populations?

That is a growing challenge among for-profit and not-for-profit organizations alike.

"It is very important that a treatment centers workers, in particular, counselors, nurses and doctors, reflect the face of the community," says Bill Prasad, vice president of clinical programming for Lifeway International in Houston.

He notes that one way to build trust in the patient/provider relationship often involves patients seeing staff as potential mentors or role models.

"Ifyou are African-American, and there is no one on staffwho is African-American, that may send the wrong message that at times, will fracture the alliance we want to create between a medical provider and a patient."

And according to a Deloitte international survey, about 70% of business executives rate diversity and inclusion an important issue but less than half (48%) consider their organizations adequate in focusing on global cultural diversity. Of the 140,000 respondents, 81% also rated talent acquisition an important trend.

In general, diversity affects three areas: staffing, leadership development and patient care.


Increasing diversity has been and continues to be a goal for behavioral healthcare organizations. How well they progress toward meeting that goal is often a function of leadership. If a treatment center uses the same sources and methods to recruit staff year after year, it is likely to limit itself to hiring people from a relatively static pool of candidates. Therefore, expanding strategic recruitment efforts is essential.

Prasad recommends getting involved in community activities and attending various professional and social gatherings to build a local network. Lunch and learn panels, regional conferences and association meetings are also opportunities to scope out potential candidates and make your recruitment needs known.

"It should always be on your radar to be looking for a diverse group of people," says Prasad.

While race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation have long been the cornerstones of diversity, a more refined level of diversity often expands to include religious practice and affiliation, personality and residential neighborhood. Yet, because it is difficult-or illegal in some situations-to hire with these traits in mind, treatment centers instead should nurture broad cultural competency among staff so that they can connect effectively with many different types of people. Ihis cultural competency can be backed with a culture of inclusion.

"Diversity isa measure, but a culture of inclusion isa mechanism. And inclusion is a step beyond diversity and means the provider is open to new perspectives," says Lindsay Hough, a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP in Harrisburg, Pa.

Cultural competency includes the ability to work with and understand different types of people with different knowledge, beliefs and behavior. For example, comfort levels with personal space or simple contact, such as a handshake, can be extremely low in certain cultures, while others might revel in an embrace. …

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