Advancing Health Equity in Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery

Dr. Deann Butler
May 30, 2023

Research clearly shows that there are racial and ethnic disparities in healthcare. This is particularly true within substance use disorder treatment and recovery. For example:

Eleanor Health is committed to advancing health equity in substance use disorder treatment and recovery. That’s why we signed the Health Equity Pledge through the Health Evolution Forum. Signees of the pledge agree to collect REaL (Race, Ethnicity and Language) data for at least 50% of their organization’s patient, member or customer population; stratify and regularly review these collected data by the top-priority quality or access metric, for 90% of major business lines and/or departments/divisions of adequate size; and participate in the Health Evolution Health Equity Learning Lab by sharing stratified data for select measures to facilitate anonymized benchmarking and to identify best practices for reducing disparities. 

A key piece in understanding inequity involves collecting REaL and SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity) data. The ultimate goal of REaL and SOGI data collection is to improve the quality of care and outcomes for all members, and to create a work environment that honors the intersectionality and experience of a person’s identity. By analyzing REaL and SOGI data, healthcare organizations can identify disparities in care, tailor interventions to meet the unique needs of diverse populations, and address systemic issues within the workforce. Ultimately, data collection is a key step in disrupting the status quo and advancing health equity for all. 

The Health Equity Pledge informs the strategy for our external work, but we did not stop there. In January 2023, we fulfilled a commitment to also collect this data within the company through employee self identification surveys. By collecting REaL data internally and externally, we are leading the way in implementing initiatives that go beyond surface-level solutions. This data is fundamental in putting Equity into Action in our decision making, research, quality improvement, policy and planning. It is instrumental in our internal DEIB strategy, employee engagement, performance and productivity. Lastly, it allows us to fully participate in the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Pursuing Equity initiative and strive for National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) Health Equity Accreditation.

As the public reflects on the past few years – particularly the aftermath of George Floyd – they may realize that some organizations making statements of support during that time were merely performative. Through the work we’re doing via our pledge and beyond, Eleanor is taking concrete steps that meaningfully advance equity, for both our Eleanor team and community members.

Dr. Deann Butler is the Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Learning and Org Development at Eleanor Health.

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Dr. Deann Butler

Dr. Deann Butler is Eleanor Health’s Head of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB), Learning and Org Development. She has healthcare experience in nonprofit, corporate and startups, and has trained more than 10,000 healthcare professionals. Over the years, she has facilitated or developed training for various organizations, including Planned Parenthood, the American Cancer Society, Central Piedmont Community College, Humana, and many more. She aims to ensure professionals are encouraged, motivated and have learning opportunities. Deann realized many minoritized healthcare professionals often feel unheard, undervalued, underpaid and overworked. Through these roles, she fulfills her passion for putting equity into action. 

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