Taking Steps to Improve Health Equity and Inclusion


We all deserve access to care, but health equity simply doesn’t exist for everyone.

Barriers to care are too numerous, too high to overcome and must be removed. Social determinants of health – race, income and where one lives – dictate the quality of care, if a person has access to care at all. As a result of our country’s outdated and unjust approach to care, we must shed light on the injustice and the urgent need to boost health equity and inclusion, especially in underserved communities, and do something to rectify the injustice.

The National Council for Mental Wellbeing champions the core belief that everyone in America deserves fair and just access to high quality mental health and substance use treatment and care. To that end, the National Council Board of Directors has developed and approved a bold new Health Equity and Inclusion Statement that will guide us as we continue striving to turn our vision of health equity for all people into a reality. Our Board of Directors and leadership believe we have a profound opportunity and obligation to:

  • Improve access to mental health and substance use treatment and care and the quality of that care.
  • Repair the systemic problems responsible for the barriers to care that jeopardize people’s mental wellbeing.

The Health Equity and Inclusion Statement represents our official position on the issue. It expands on our internal and external diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts, and it supports our vision to make mental wellbeing — including recovery from substance use — a reality for everyone, everywhere.

It’s not enough to acknowledge systemic injustice. We will:

  • Work to better understand the makeup of the people we serve and ensure our members and our Board reflect these populations across geography, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, economic class and disability.
  • Work more closely and meaningfully with those we serve, including both members and clients, and remain open to how we view our work.
  • Use person-centered language that addresses our workforce and the people we serve in a sensitive and informed manner.

As we consider the needs of those we serve, it’s clear that we can better ground our culture in the experiences of those who seek our care. That includes giving people from the communities we wish to serve more opportunities to have voice and representation in improving the systems of care that impact them.

It includes creating a more diverse workforce and encouraging organizations to attract those with lived experience. Our efforts to be more inclusive can’t overlook the contributions of those with lived experience — leveraging their breadth of knowledge and depth of empathy is vital to our work.

We have identified many other strategies to promote health equity and inclusion, and I invite you to review our full statement.

Why are we doing this now, at a time when many organizations and institutions are currently removing and abandoning DEI statements? It’s about fairness.

People of color and other underserved groups experience higher rates of illness and death across a wide range of health conditions, limiting the overall health of the nation, and research further finds that health disparities are costly, resulting in excess medical care costs and lost productivity, as well as additional economic losses due to premature deaths each year.

Those inequities won’t fix themselves, and we can’t be passive observers. We must commit to actively improving equitable access to services, building capacity for care delivery, investing in our workforce and promoting mental wellbeing as a core component of health and health care.

But our success in boosting health equity will require more than making statements or including DEI in our core values and strategic goals. Adoption of the statement itself is just a small step toward the intended impact of this initiative. The substantive work is delivering on the commitments in the statement. We all must take up these commitments and engage in a collaborative process with our members, partners and staff to determine how we’ll integrate and make good on these words.

How will you respond?


Charles Ingoglia, MSW
(he/him/his) President and CEO
National Council for Mental Wellbeing
See bio