Howard Center: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Racism is a public health emergency.

We commit to the following action steps as an anti-racist organization:

  1. Create a data dashboard system to identify health disparities and inform practice change within our agency’s clinical practice and recruitment plan.
  2. Advance recruitment strategies to racially diversify the Board of Trustees and senior leadership at Howard Center.
  3. Enhance training and support to address racist actions by those we serve (clients, students, patients).
  4. Demonstrate support for Black Lives Matter through an agency action initiative.
  5. Offer educational sessions on racism related to mental health, substance use, and developmental disabilities as part of our free and open to the public Community Education Series.

“We are committed to a world without racism. With roots in social justice, Howard Center staff work each day to serve our community and strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion in our organizational culture and system of care. We look forward to joining together with our community partners to strategically and fully eradicate systemic racism throughout our community.”                     

Catherine Simonson, LICSW, Chief Client Services Officer

July 16, 2020 | Mayor Miro Weinberger, Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and 30-plus Chittenden County Organizations Together Declare Racism a Public Health Emergency

Organizations announce immediate actions to address this emergency both internally and in their work, and commit to ongoing joint action to eliminate race-based health disparities and systemic racism in Chittenden County

Burlington, VT – Today, Mayor Miro Weinberger, the Vermont Racial Justice Alliance, and more than 30 Chittenden County organizations announced a community declaration of racism as a public health emergency. As part of the declaration, all participants also announced: 1) a commitment to the sustained and deep work of eradicating racism within their organizations; 2) immediate and specific actions that they are taking to address the emergency in the work that they do; and 3) a commitment to participate in ongoing joint action, grounded in science and data, to eliminate race-based health disparities and eradicate systemic racism in Chittenden County. Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine and State Executive Director of Racial Equity Xusana Davis also announced the State of Vermont’s intention to support and collaborate in this regional public health effort.

Media Coverage:

WCAX: Burlington to declare racism a public health emergency

Vermont Business Magazine: City, Chittenden County organizations declare racism a public health emergency

Seven Days: Burlington, community organizations declare racism a public health emergency

VTDigger: Burlington declares racism a public health emergency

VPR: Declaration of racism as public health emergency

Los Angeles Times: Vermont’s largest city declares racism a health emergency

U.S. News & World Report: Vermont City, groups declare racism a health emergency

Throughout our 150-year history of helping individuals, adults, and families, we have seen our community grow and become more diverse. We have responded to those changes by providing programs and services that meet the wide-ranging needs of our clients. These are just a few:

  • For those who may not speak English, we have in-person and video translation options.
  • For individuals with limited hearing and speaking abilities, our staff may rely on American Sign Language or technology to assist with communication.
  • For clients who seek counseling, we offer individual and group options that focus on a broad array of client interests, needs, and goals, including groups for men and women with autism and a Pride group which is open to people of all gender identities and expressions.Our goal is to create an organization that embraces diversity, equity and inclusion by remaining responsive to the needs of our constantly changing community. Our clients are at the focus of all we do, and our staff continue to develop best practice guidelines in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Read Howard Center CEO, Bob Bick’s commentary

Uniting against racial injustice is a job for us all.


Soiling Innocence By Jude Smith Rachele, PhD. Written in early 2019

Hiding behind manufactured bravery and strength
Flashing moral compasses
Smothered by
An insatiable hunger for
Regulation and control.

Abject failure to stand
The most difficult and the truest tests of humanity
Of flesh and blood.
A tyranny grips me
With its vices
Cloaked in fragile virtue.

Medals for detainment.
Elevating cruelty.
Insulting reason.
The callousness of hearts dwarfs that of
Hardworking unblemished hands.
What a woeful state.
Soiling innocence.

I may appear to acquiesce
To weaken and to crumble
At the foot of
Silent gloating glory.
This is an illusion.
I will not be defeated
By shining examples of how not to be
In a world that is
In such desperate need
Of rescue.

Abhorrence is reserved
For those who remain effortless
In their complacency
And arrogance.
Thanks is given
To those who wished to do better
But were faced with
Insurmountable limits
Self-imposed or otherwise.

It is my hope
That when there is a next time
To be, and to do
(and I do hope
that for some of what we have been through
there is no next time),
We will traverse
The confines
Of familiar, intractable routines.

I am not one for
Pomp and Circumstance.
If you see me
And my head is hung low
It is not because
I cannot bear to meet your eyes.
It is not because
I am containing an incandescent rage that is seething within me.
It is because
I am in deep mourning, and
I do not
To be

June is Pride Month

This month is a dedicated time for us to recognize the leadership and sacrifice of queer people throughout history (told and untold). From Eli Clare to James Baldwin and bell hooks to Sasha Velour, queer people of past and present have influenced the course of history. Pride month is also a time to see the struggles of queer people as part of a greater, collective struggle for liberation. It calls us to do our part to continue to change the course of history until all are free to be who they are.

Above all, this month is about love. Love of yourself and all the parts of you that make you who you are and love of other people with their own identities, experiences, and perspectives that share this beautiful and challenging world with you.

Recognizing and Celebrating May as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Before American colonists arrived on the shores of the archipelago in 1820, the Hawaiian Islands were a Polynesian kingdom. The colonists began systematically undermining the monarchy’s authority and by 1887 had forced the then-king to sign a new constitution. When the king passed and Queen Liliuokalani took the throne in 1891, efforts by wealthy land-owners to gain control of the islands continued to grow. Read more about the story of the last Hawaiian ruler and its first female monarch.

Check out this reading list featuring stories by and about Asian American and Pacific  Islanders.

Ongoing Resources

As an organization, we are committed to expanding our understanding of issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion and to ensure those values are reflected in our work with clients. As part of this effort, we will soon be including an  online DEI Resource Library which provides information about the following topics:

  • (Dis)Ability & Mental Health
  • Economic and Social Status
  • Race and Culture
  • Gender and Gender Identity
  • Sexuality and Sexual Orientation
  • Interpersonal Violence

We believe that sharing this information online is an important step to ensure that we are responsive to the needs of each individual we help and our diverse community.