The Governor’s Institute in Raleigh is a non-governmental organization founded by former North Carolina governor James Martin. It serves as a continuing medical education (CME) resource for healthcare professionals in the discipline of addiction medicine. One of those resources is a bi-annual Addiction Medicine Conference, funded by state and federal health services administrations. Do No Harm obtained a copy of some of the materials presented at the April 2022 conference, and you won’t believe what passes as “top-notch” CME in North Carolina.
Dr. Jessica Isom, clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry at Yale University and owner of Vision for Equity, LLC presented Can You See Us? Providing Equity-minded Treatment for Racialized Minorities at the April 2022 Addiction in Medicine conference. After “naming the elephants in the room” by explaining terms such as “social positionality” and “the centering of a subjugated counternarrative,” Dr. Isom ventured into “the taboo nature of the topic of race, racism, and whiteness.”
Dr. Isom provided examples of “the wisdom and insight that can be found” on social media with the images titled What White Privilege in Addiction and Recovery Looks Like and Racism Experienced in Addiction and Recovery. In this illustration, she claimed that racialization in substance use disorder means you are “vulnerable to criminalization if you are not white,” whereas “white opens up doors to medicalization.” She equates the impact of “racialized minorities’” relationship with drugs to “oppression” and “specifically racial trauma.” These include “current race-based manifestations that affect their behavioral health.”
Dr. Isom explained that Americans are “socialized” into concepts that are inaccurate, “such as colorblind racial ideology.” CBRI, as she puts it, “will convince you we are in a post-racial society,” but she countered that the roots of the nation’s problems are in structural and cultural racism. “A whole PhD – probably multiple – could be obtained on structural racism,” she stated. “Cultural racism” refers to things like “implicit bias and microaggressions.” She referred to “really big topics” at the bottom of her slide, which are shown as “white supremacy” and “racialized inequities.”
The second half of Dr. Isom’s presentation centered on “equity-mindedness.” This concept, coupled with an “organizational commitment to equity,” provides a solution to inequities in the treatment of addiction. This means working on individual “implicit and explicit biases we hold” and “growing our equity muscles” so issues of race and bias issues can be tolerated “without having a meltdown,” she explained.
Equity-minded people are “race-conscious, not in race denial,” such as “that colorblind stuff” Dr. Isom previously mentioned. “Race is there. It’s always there,” she said, adding that discrimination “is happening all the time. Every single day.”
In addressing “organizational equity-mindedness, Dr. Isom discussed “racial anxiety and racial stereotype threat” when working with clients. One party might be concerned about experiencing racial discrimination and is experiencing anxiety about that, while the other party might be concerned about confirming “the stereotype that all white people, for example, are racist.” She advised the participants to prepare clients who “don’t have a choice about where they go” that it’s possible that they will receive some “discriminatory treatment.”
Finally, Dr. Isom used an image that suggests racism has an impact on every element of addiction and treatment. “If you want a condensed, concise summary of this topic, this is a good place to start:”
The April 2022 Addiction Medicine conference is not the only symposium to promote topics in medical wokeness. The November conference included plenary sessions on “Clinical Strategies that Address Equity” and “Addressing Reproductive Health in Substance Use Disorder Treatment through a Harm-Reduction and Trauma-informed Lens.” The spring Addiction Medicine Conference in March 2023 continues these themes and offers a 90-minute workshop titled “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Focused Topic.”
Why is the Governor’s Institute promoting and hosting discussions and speakers with materials that push anti-racism and radical ideologies? Addiction medicine professionals and the residents of North Carolina who seek their services won’t benefit from a constant spotlight on racial identity politics as part of the treatment plan.
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