In recent years, California has emerged as a frontier in advocating for health equity, especially in Substance Use Disorder (SUD) treatment services tailored for its BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and LGBTQ+ communities. The state has manifested its commitment through a variety of initiatives aiming to bridge the existing health disparities. This article highlights the key efforts and projects underway to foster inclusivity, improve access to necessary care, and instigate policy shifts alongside community engagement, ensuring a more equitable health landscape.

These endeavors underscore a concerted push towards a more inclusive and accessible SUD treatment paradigm, one that resonates with the unique needs and experiences of the BIPOC and LGBTQ+ populations in California. Through a closer examination of these initiatives, this article sheds light on the progressive trajectory California is embarking on to ensure health equity in SUD treatment services.

Resource links are included for each intiative and project included in the lists below. Companies not associated with government agencies or funding are listed as a Private Company or Private Grantmaker.

Initiatives and Efforts

Behavioral Health Equity Collaborative

The California Pan-Ethnic Health Network has launched the Behavioral Health Equity Collaborative (BHEC), which is a significant initiative that brings together state and local organizations representing diverse groups of underserved individuals, including BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, youth, and LGBTQ+ communities. The collaborative aims to advocate for increased investments in quality mental health services, addressing challenges like insurance coverage gaps, workforce diversity shortages, and affordability issues. The collaborative is supported by a grant from the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) and engages in policy advocacy, mental health systems change, policy research and development, and capacity building of community organizations serving BIPOC and LGBTQ+ populations. California Pan-Ethnic Healthcare Network

Inclusive Therapists Directory (Private Company)

California has an Inclusive Therapists Directory which aims to provide culturally responsive mental health therapy for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals. This directory facilitates the connection of individuals with mental health providers who are committed to inclusivity and understanding the unique experiences and challenges faced by these communities. Inclusive Therapists Directory

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Resources

CDPH provides resources and programs addressing health concerns of the LGBTQ+ community. These resources encompass a range of health topics including HIV/AIDS, gender-affirming services, mental health, reproductive health, and more, which are aimed at empowering the LGBTQ+ individuals to prioritize their health and access necessary screenings and treatments. CDPH LGBTQ Resource Page

QTBIPOC Community (Private Company)

The QTBIPOC community encompasses Queer and Trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. When discussing this community, we must acknowledge intersectionality. Defined as a person’s overlap of social identities, intersectionality is a combination of gender identity, sexuality, class, race, and mobility. The QTBIPOC community stands at the intersection of race, gender identity and sexuality. Because of this, their experiences and their treatment needs are unique. Access to culturally competent mental health and addiction care is vital for members of this community. QTBIPOC Community

Health Equity for BIPOC and LGBTQ

Grants and Projects

Health Equity in Access to Behavioral Health Recovery Services (HEAR US) Phase 1 and 2

The HEAR US funding opportunity will support Californian nonprofit organizations in expanding access to and utilization of behavioral health recovery services through a health equity approach that seeks to remove barriers to care for communities of color, Two-Spirit and LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and others who have faced discrimination and unequal access to behavioral health care systems. Over an 18-month period, awardees will help implement the Roadmap to Improve Access and Equity for Communities in Recovery, which was created in the first phase of the HEAR US project. This roadmap is grounded in the following guiding principles for providing behavioral health recovery services, which include ensuring:

1. Culturally responsive services and systems
2. Low-barrier access to services
3. Integrated peer support across the recovery continuum
4. Harm reduction approaches to drug use and recovery
5. Addressing the needs of the whole person

Behavioral Health Recovery Services Project

2023 Grants Challenge by Friendly Hand Foundation (Private Grantmaker)

The Friendly Hand Foundation has proposed a project under the 2023 Grants Challenge for equitable addiction treatment specifically aimed at BIPOC/LGBTQ+ women. They aim to create a transitional sober living facility tailored to the unique needs of these communities. Their program includes culturally-responsive training and a phased treatment approach. The project endeavors to decrease substance misuse rates, improve treatment outcomes, and eliminate health disparities related to SUD among the target population. LA2050

Governor Newsom’s Grant for SUD Treatment Facilities

The Orange County Health Care Agency has been allocated funding to expand adolescent residential treatment facilities for youth suffering from SUD. Although not exclusively for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals, this funding is part of a larger initiative to increase access to SUD treatment services across the board, which can potentially benefit these communities as well.

Horizons Foundation Grantmaking Program (Local Grantmakers for SF Bay Area)

Horizons Foundation offers a grantmaking program called Community Issues, which provides support to small and mid-sized LGBTQ nonprofit organizations and programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. This program could potentially include SUD treatment services catering to the LGBTQ+ community’s unique needs. Horizon Foundation

California Grants Portal

The California Grants Portal lists current grant opportunities provided by California state agencies. While the portal itself doesn’t specify projects focused on SUD treatment for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ individuals, it’s a resource where such grants and projects might be listed, and interested organizations or individuals could explore for funding opportunities related to health equity in SUD treatment services. California Grants Portal

Dr. Jessica Rodriguez

Dr. Rodriguez was named the Executive Director of Gateway Corp in 2012.  Gateway Corp was developed as a non-profit, public charity and founded October 27, 2011. November 2014, she developed a clinical hub for Gateway Corp called OnSite Strategies. OnSite is also a United States Trademark.

She has held the position of CEO, Clinical Director, Lead Educator and Clinical Trainer as well as the Clinical Business Developer. She has fulfilled the roles of a clinical consultant, professional development consultant and has clinically supervised many SUD/addiction counselors, mental health professionals and addiction and family interventionists for over 12 years.

She has been active in the mental health field since 1995. She has also clinically trained throughout the US and provides clinical oversight for several organizations in California.

Dr. Rodriguez released her first book, “When the Rainbow Ends a Shadow from Heaven Appears” in 2017.” Her newest book, “The Cart, From Adversity to Collateral Beauty” is scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2022.

Dr. Rodriguez is currently a writer for Rapporteur Magazine. Her focus is about Mental Wellness also covered topics to include ACE’s, trauma, anxiety, and Systemic Racism.

Adriana Popescu, Ph.D.

Dr. Adriana Popescu is a licensed clinical psychologist and empowerment coach with over 25 years of experience in the mental health field. She specializes in treating addictions and trauma, and has directed a number of treatment programs in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the Founder and CEO of Firebird Healing, a trauma healing program, and the Clinical Director at Avery Lane, an innovative and holistic treatment program for women with co-occurring addiction and mental health disorders and trauma.

Adriana has contributed to a number of books, including TJ Woodward’s Conscious Being Workbook, the Conscious Recovery for Addiction and Conscious Recovery for Mental Health Workbooks, and the Conscious Creation Workbook, all of which she co-authored with him.

She has a private practice in San Francisco and travels around the world speaking, coaching, and facilitating transformational and empowering workshops. She also hosts a fascinating podcast called Kaleidoscope of Possibilities – Alternative Perspectives on Mental Health.

Adriana loves to bring the most innovative and effective tools to her work, empowering people to overcome their imagined limitations, release their self-judgments, and discover the brilliance within – creating a life of infinite possibilities.

Her first book, “What If You’re Not as F*cked Up As You Think”, was released in October.

Aven Armstrong-Sutton, Ph.D(c), RSW

Clinical Services Manager at Kinark Child and Family Services

Aven L. Armstrong-Sutton has been a practicing licensed social worker for over a decade. With diverse experience in settings such as health promotion, foster care, youth homelessness, outpatient mental health & addictions, and student support services, Aven currently serves as a Clinical Services Manager at Kinark Child and Family Services, managing a Live-In-Treatment Program and three outpatient treatment programs. Maintaining a part-time private practice, Aven’s multidisciplinary and integrative approach focuses on trauma and resilience among under-served communities.

June Price Tangney, Ph.D

Dr. Tangney received her Ph.D. in clinical psychology from UCLA. She is currently University Professor and Professor of Psychology at George Mason. She is a Recipient of International Society for Self and Identity’s Distinguished Lifetime Career Award and Fellow of the Association of Psychological Science and of APA’s Division of Personality and Social Psychology.

Dr. Tangney is coauthor (with Ronda Dearing) of Shame and Guilt, coeditor (with Ronda Dearing) of Shame in the Therapy Hour, coeditor (with Jess Tracy and Richard Robins) of The self-conscious emotions: Theory and research, and coeditor (with Mark Leary) of the Handbook of Self and Identity. She has served as Associate Editor for Self and Identity, Consulting Editor for Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Assessment, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, and Journal of Personality, and is currently Associate Editor of American Psychologist.

Her research on the development and implications of moral emotions has been funded by NIDA, NICHD, NSF, and the John Templeton Foundation. Currently, her work focuses on moral emotions among incarcerated offenders. She draws on theory and research in psychology and criminology to develop novel interventions that leverage inmates’ moral emotions and prosocial values. A recipient of GMU’s Teaching Excellence Award, Dr. Tangney strives to integrate service, teaching and clinically-relevant research in both the classroom and her lab.

Christina Veselak, MS, LMFT, CN

Founder and Director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition

Christina T. Veselak, MS, LMFT, CN, is the founder and director of the Academy for Addiction and Mental Health Nutrition, which teaches practitioners around the world how to use diet, along with amino acid and nutrient therapy, to help prevent cravings and recurrent drug use. She has been a licensed psychotherapist working in the SUD treatment field since 1985 and a certified nutritionist specializing in mental health and addiction recovery since 1993.

Sean Bezdek, LMFT, MBA

Sean is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 25 years of experience working in mental health and substance abuse settings, in inpatient, PHP, and private practice. He holds b a master’s degree in Marital and Family Therapy from Philips Institute and an MBA from Baker College.

Sean’s clinical practice has specialized in working with Personality Disorders, Couples, Adolescents, and individual suffering from chronic mental illness. As a clinician Sean enjoys working with clients who can be resistant to traditional treatment and believes in the philosophy of “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. BUT you can feed them saltines to make them thirsty!”

Sean is the Program Director for Akua Mind Body’s Sacramento inpatient mental health program. His prior leadership experience includes oversight of acute inpatient, utilization management, hospice/palliative care, home health and skilled nursing. Sean’s approach to management is to ensure the work that needs to get done gets done. “Our job is patient care. This include everything from making coffee to running groups. There is not one person who is more important that the other when it comes to providing exceptional care to the clients we serve.”