Eye on DEI

Council paves the way for HHC equity journey

By Anne Rondepierre-Riczu

In November 2019, the Behavioral Health Network (BHN) formed Hartford HealthCare’s first regional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Council to cultivate a more inclusive workplace culture. 

The Council is committed to providing effective, equitable, understandable and respectful quality care and services that are responsive to diverse cultural health beliefs and practices, preferred languages, health literacy and other communication needs. 

The BHN DEI Council held a T-shirt design contest fundraiser in 2020 and this design by Dan Adamki, mental health counselor and member of the Rushford Diversity Equity Inclusion Council, won first place. Proceeds from t-shirt sales were donated to CTCORE Organize Now!, a racial justice platform dedicated to building communities of racial justice freedom fighters to dismantle systemic and structural racism in Connecticut. 

Examples of Council accomplishments over the past year include:

• Conducting “Let’s Talk” and “Courageous Conversation” forums to discuss events at work, in our communities and across the nation that may have an impact on our lives. Topics include “Workplace Experiences of Discrimination” and “The Impact of Current Events on the Wellbeing of Staff and Patients.” 

• Initiating BHN-wide training and staff support for meeting the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Standards. 

• Updating and educating colleagues, leadership and the community through presentations on diversity topics. 

• Supporting changes in the physical appearance of work and treatment spaces to reflect the diverse communities we serve. 

• Celebrating diverse cultures in our work areas with food, decorations and cultural information. 

• Promoting policy updates to reflect a more inclusive work culture, such as adding Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a recognized HHC holiday, adding preferred pronouns to the approved email signature template, and working to create guidelines for responding to verbal aggression such as hate speech in the workplace. 

• Researching best practices for diverse and inclusive workplaces through interviews with industry representatives from various backgrounds, presenting recommendations to leadership. 

• Performing community outreach with Foodshare to collect and distribute food for people in need. 

• Participating in the HHC DEIB Council and Colleague Resource Groups. 

• Researching and piloting mentorship initiatives. 

• Adding DEI as a BHN balanced scorecard goals. 

Members of the BHN DEI Council are: Sarah Lewis, HHC; John Santopietro, BHN; Starlin Astacio, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital; Joanna Chaurette and Lamirra Simeon, Natchaug; Tonisha Cohen-King and Chelsea Gilyard, St. Vincent’s Medical Center; Mara DeMaio, Kimesha Morris, Dana Shagan and Aieyat Zalzala, Institute of Living; Mui Mui Hin-McCormick and Michelle Voegtle, Rushford; and Heidi Sandling, Lean. 

Learn more about HHC’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts by listening to a podcast at HartfordHealthCare.org/Podcasts.