Diverse employees seated at a conference table

Introducing our Integrated Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council

As Veritas Collaborative and The Emily Program continue to integrate under our parent company Accanto Health, we are so excited to now have a common Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council. The EDI Council has been shaping our shared policies, procedures, and culture since our brands merged, and we feel it is time to introduce ourselves. The common questions and answers below provide an overview of the Council, its members, and its initiatives.

What is an EDI Council?

An Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Council is a group of staff from different levels and departments of an organization who represent varied personal and collective identities. EDI Councils typically work to advance the rights of marginalized folks within an organization, as well as those the organization serves. They also catalyze advocacy and spaces for reflection in response to local, national, and global events that challenge social justice or the rights of vulnerable populations.

How does our EDI Council work?

Accanto Health’s EDI Council is led by an EDI Advisory Council. The Advisory Council meets once per week to advance efforts, while the entire EDI Council meets once per month. Below are the different positions on our Advisory Council and their duties.  

  • The Chair of the Council is a member of senior leadership who elevates the observations, feedback, and recommendations of the Council to the executive team. The Chair’s role is to provide support, advocacy, and guidance in aligning the Council’s efforts with the goals of the organization.
  • The Internal Communications Coordinator and External Communications Coordinator are appointed by the Council’s members and are responsible for drafting, reviewing, and distributing all written communication for internal and external audiences.
  • Site Coordinators support the Council by coordinating meetings, planning events, and following up on action items at their Veritas Collaborative or Emily Program site. They coordinate and schedule all site-specific meetings, activities, and initiatives.
  • Council members create opportunities for employees to meaningfully engage with leadership to advance cultural inclusivity and equity in the workplace. They serve as an advisory group for employee programs that impact organization-wide diversity and inclusion. Council members identify barriers that impact recruitment, retention, advancement, and training. They act as change agents for the organization by challenging the status quo, as well as championing EDI, promoting the company as an employer of choice, assisting with event planning, and voting on decisions.

What are the goals of our EDI Council?

Our mission statement is as follows: ​​​​​​​

We are Accanto Health. We are diverse and our diversity is what makes us strong. Our diversity of training, background, job function, gender identity, ethnic background, and perspective enables us to create the most optimal care for our patients and the most collaborative work environment. By practicing radical inclusivity, we draw on the strengths of all our staff members’ training, expertise, background, and life experience to create a company culture that values all people. The focus of this Council is to provide direction and leadership for our organization—to deepen this culture at every site for every staff member. The goal is to lead by example as an organization in our industry and culture to demonstrate the power of a company that embraces diversity of thought and background.

How are equity, diversity, and inclusion reflected in Emily Program and Veritas Collaborative practices and policies?

When forming our integrated EDI Council, we launched an EDI-focused evaluation of current practices and policies, similar to one conducted by Veritas’ former EDI Council. We started with an organization-wide survey of both staff and patients to gather information. An external anti-racist consultant, Kenya Crawford, guided the design and administration of this survey and analyzed the information gathered. Additionally, Kenya held racial affinity groups, solicited anonymous feedback, and held stakeholder interviews. We are actively involved in incorporating this feedback into staff policies and patient-facing arenas.

Our EDI Council members also host monthly EDI Community Conversations (formerly known as EDI Town Halls) focused on current events as a space for staff members to share their concerns, ask questions, and discuss current world events. Topics have included the Black Lives Matter movement, gerrymandering, voting, the Olympics, cultural appropriation, and more.

How does the EDI Council’s work impact patients?

Each month the EDI Council leads a Heritage Month celebration that includes relevant activities for patients in treatment. Our art therapists and culinary leaders create one art and one culinary activity per month that allow patients to learn more about a specific heritage group and their experiences. Here are a couple of examples of art projects created during Black History Month: 

     

One patient was inspired by artist Kehinde Wiley to challenge their patterns of black-and-white thinking to live more vibrantly by being inclusive of all foods and body types. Another created artwork inspired by a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr.

We work with each location’s Site Coordinator to include site-specific information on celebratory events, history, and current concerns of each heritage group. As a national healthcare system, we understand that there will be nuances specific to each site, and we work to uplift the unique needs and voices of each local community. Our EDI teams have this information visible and available on Diversity Boards at each site. See some recent examples of these boards:

      

The EDI Council is always looking for creative ways to involve patients and families in Heritage Months. Spirit weeks are one way to help each other connect with each heritage month on an individual level:

   

Our EDI Council has also been engaged in ongoing discussions about underrepresented and underserved populations within eating disorder treatment as a whole and at our sites specifically. Most recently, we’ve discussed specific considerations for BIPOC patients, patients in larger bodies, and gender-diverse patients. To date, staff have completed required training on LGBTQIA+ -affirming care, diversity training, and training to identify and address microaggressions, with many more trainings to come.

Where are we going from here?

Thorough, sustainable system-wide change is slow, and we are acutely aware of the pace of our work. As a Council, it is important that we acknowledge that our work so far is not enough in the face of the adversities and challenges that our staff and patients experience daily. There are items that have gone unaddressed and there have been times logistics have, frustratingly, slowed down our work.

Still, we are committed to learning and supporting the ongoing needs of our staff and patients. This work requires perseverance and dedication, and we, as a Council, have both to advance the values of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Please be on the lookout for continued information regarding the Council’s work. We’re thrilled to continue pushing for change.

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