OHCA The Oregon Caregiver Spring Summer 2022

www.ohca.com SPRING/SUMMER 2022 The Oregon Caregiver 7 FEATURE Growth can sometimes be messy, ugly, and uncomfortable, but it is sometimes necessary. When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work, the growth is often slow, but the payoff is insurmountable. DEI concepts, especially around race, can be uncomfortable for people to discuss. However, in order to make meaningful change in this space, this particular discomfort has to be embraced head on. Several OHCA provider members share their growing pains of operationalizing DEI and the value behind it. In addition to our sector having to deal with the traumatic outcomes, restrictions, and hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic, during the same time we also dealt with the challenges of growing racial tensions felt nationwide, and even globally. On top of dealing with COVID19, long term care providers also found themselves asking, “How do we address these tensions in our community?” Avamere Family of Companies began its diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts in late 2020. With the help of an external consultant and former Head of Talent Acquisition, Lisa Marie May, Avamere established core components for their efforts: • Identifying areas of focus • Establishing a council • Evaluating areas of growth In November 2020, the company surveyed a team of nearly 9,000 employees, inquiring about culture, experience, and identity. Jessica Burkard, the company’s division director of community and provider engagement says building team comradery, improving the morale, and addressing staffing issues that have impacted long term care were identified by survey respondents as essential. “Being a part of something bigger than yourself is something everyone has in common. Whether it’s your neighborhood, social hobbies, family, or work, belonging and interacting with people from different backgrounds is an everyday occurrence,” said Burkard. “It’s important to note that DEIB is more than addressing inequities and discrimination, which is critical; it’s about how we interact with one another and recognize and respect each other’s lived experiences. I think there is validity in all our perspectives and experiences, no matter how uncomfortable or disagreeable they may be.” After assessing the survey results, the company established a People and Culture Council, comprised of representatives from all aspects of the company including professionals in roles ranging from clinical, human resources, finance, home health and rehabilitation. To help guide the company through their DEIB journey, Burkard says the group focuses on key areas: procurement, people operations, development, education, talent acquisition, and marketing. Through this council, members were able to strengthen bonds by sharing and reflecting on their lived experiences and backgrounds, which provided some “ah-ha” moments. Avamere also worked to re-brand and create a space for DEIB. While the company’s efforts had wins, its ambition and size posed some challenges. Additionally, a company restructure and ongoing COVID-19 stressors slowed momentum, so the time came to pivot. The group decided to focus on their respective lines of business separately: skilled nursing, home health, and rehabilitation. The idea was to allow a more tailored approach to education and other efforts that fit the unique structures and variations in each line of business. Burkard was selected to lead DEIB efforts for 32 skilled nursing facilities in Avamere’s skilled nursing division. Burkard comes from a multiracial/ international family and has a professional background working with hospitals and federally qualified health centers with a focus on health equity. At Avamere, her focus is on culture. “Culture is the ‘I and B’ of DEIB. We all know long term care was decimated by CONTINUES » the pandemic. Many folks are experiencing exhaustion, tension, and the feeling of being overwhelmed, or they come from a background that was hit particularly hard in the last couple years (people on Visas, people with police in their families, working parents, people of color, caretakers, students). All of this has a huge impact on how we work together. I want to get back to basics and close the gaps that were unintended consequences of a pandemic,” said Burkard. “In order to address hard-hitting topics, like discrimination and prejudice, you have to get people feeling comfortable sharing and communicating with one another.” For Hearth and Truss, DEI initiatives have been foundational to the organization’s mission, but they’ve shifted over the years. Coming from leading a Florida assisted living community with a dominant Cubano culture, Mauro Hernandez, co-owner of Hearth and Truss, initially wanted to focus on how the assisted living model of care was relevant to a Hispanic community. One early and easy fix Hernandez noticed was that important routine materials at many communities, from food menus and handbooks, to policies, procedures, and contracts, weren’t even available in Spanish. “Oregon has really emphasized the traditional American values of privacy, individuality, dignity, choice, and a home life environment in assisted living. Yet, when I came to Oregon, I noticed a lot of things that didn’t quite fit with our resident population. Even back in Florida, we also had some challenges serving a multicultural population because we found that even though we were in the heart of Little Havana, the non-Hispanic residents never felt really welcome,” said Hernandez. “We really struggled with that because the myth of the melting pot of the U.S. assumes that everybody is willing to let go of their traditions and adopt the traditions of the dominant culture.” Having grown up in a primarily Hispanic family and identifying as LGBTQ+, Hernandez understands some of the challenges Oregon assisted living communities are facing. He took a