Jonathan Lee, CEO, Writes an Open Letter Regarding Social Justice for African Americans and the Black Lives Matter Movement.
Open Letter to the Signature Health Community
With the death of George Floyd and the ensuing national protests there have been calls from Signature Health team members, and others, for me to make a public statement, among other actions, to express Signature Health’s support for ending systemic racism, police brutality and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
I have purposely been outwardly silent, allowing and encouraging other voices to finally join this crucial conversation. Signature Health has been in the fight for what seems like forever. For too long the vast majority of the other members of our community have not focused on this struggle. Now that so many other people, organizations and leaders have begun to focus on systemic racism, stigma, and race related health disparities, and have joined us in this fight, I feel a sense of hope that together we have the opportunity to finally make meaningful progress on these issues. Since then there have been additional tragedies, including today’s article on Cleveland.com about a local African American man living with mental illness who was jailed for five months after being assaulted by Garfield Hts. police officers, that have brought all the anger and pain and struggle to a new crescendo, and I will no longer remain silent.
It has been so enraging that it takes repeated tragedy to get us all to finally see and to care. For systemic racism, it wasn’t until we saw yet another video of another person who was suffocated to death at the hands of a police officer. For the opiate epidemic, it wasn’t until thousands of young white kids started filling up the morgues after overdoses that we began to invest in treatment and started viewing addiction as a health issue and not a criminal one. How many babies have to die before we get serious about the infant mortality problem in our African American Community?
Let there be no doubt that Signature Health always has and always will fight for the rights and dignity of African Americans, and other stigmatized groups. We don’t say this now, nor do this, because it is the topic of the day. We have been in this fight from our very founding. It is a part of our core reason for existence.
We choose to take the enraging feelings and tragedy and turn them into resolve and action. We will continuously address the health disparities found in our community that lead to shorter lifespans and more chronic disease for our African American community members. We resolve to be a part of first responder teams to send mental health professionals to situations that are clearly needing our expertise. We will continue to be a part of educational programs to help lift people out of poverty. We will continuously focus on inclusion and stigma reduction with our staff, our patients, and our community, permanently. And we will continue to invite people to join us in this mission. Signature Health is a safe place for African Americans, people living with mental illness, and other stigmatized groups to work, to get the care they need, and to thrive and our resolve is to make the entire community just as safe.
Jonathan Lee, CEO