Who Is At The Table? 

December 20, 2019

In our September guest blog, An Opportunity to Explore the Intersections of Hispanic and Recovery Communities, written by Dr. Kristine De Jesus and Angelo Lagares for Hispanic Heritage month, they stated, “There is an opportunity to reduce health disparities, improve quality of life and promote recovery to Hispanic/Latinx communities across the United States. It requires a resolution to do better, to ask questions, and to commit resources.” They then challenged us to “join together to reduce health disparities, create solutions, and recover.” In order to do so, what are the questions we must ask, and what are the actions we must take?

The ultimate goal, it would seem, is to work towards health equity.  Reducing health disparities isn’t as simple or as straightforward as it sounds.  Simply providing resources like universal healthcare isn’t enough. Just because resources are available doesn’t make them accessible, especially in the USA, where the legacy of colonization, slavery, and Jim Crow are ignored when creating systems of care. In order to create a system that is grounded in health equity, it is essential to ensure wellness services are not centered on the needs of one group to the exclusion of others.

The concept of “Best Practices” is centered on being “evidence-based,” which in theory sounds ideal, as the use of data is critical in creating interventions and supports that are effective.  However, if we look at those who are part of the “evidence base” it is primarily those who already have access (Euro-American, straight, cisgender, middle-class, and educated); thus, those who exist in the margins become further marginalized.  To be more inclusive and allow for innovation the concept of “evidence-informed” care becomes critical as it acknowledges the data while holding space for the reality that not everyone heals the same way and that socio-cultural factors impact wellness practices and access. 

To decrease health disparities it is critical that we take stock.  This requires a willingness to be honest and to be uncomfortable when looking at how systems have engaged people who use drugs and those in recovery.  While great strides have been made in reducing stigma, there seems to be a general lack of awareness about – or worse, a lack of willingness to do – what is necessary to create inclusive and accessible systems of care.

The holiday season provides an opportunity to be present, reflect, and ultimately start anew.  This is a great time for self-assessment (as individuals and organizations) – and it’s time we look within.  As we gather to celebrate the accomplishment of the year, it is important that we look around and ask ourselves when it comes to decision making, who is at the table? Why did those at the table get invited? Through understanding the who and the why, we can also begin to build awareness around who isn’t at the table, and why. Was the table catered to the needs and preferences of those seated there?  It is only with this recognition and awareness that we can begin to do meaningful work in reducing barriers and improving health equity for those who are in or seeking recovery.  This is done by cultivating addiction prevention, treatment and recovery support systems that are grounded in respect, culturally responsive and linguistically appropriate.

This clearly is not an easy task and it doesn’t happen overnight. It requires hard work and long-term investment in creating systemic changes. We must challenge our fragility, and develop an understanding of the role of colonization and capitalism has played in the delivery of addiction prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and recovery support services. It means inviting to the table – or perhaps even giving up our seat at the table for people who are different, and allowing people to speak their truth without negating their experiences or silencing them.  

We all have a role to play here and we encourage you to ask yourself, “What is my role?” Here are some questions to ponder as you begin or continue the journey of self-assessment.

  • What are my identities? (race, ethnicity, class, gender, criminal justice involvement, education, etc.)
  • How do my identities and experiences influence my network of people and resources?
  • How do I navigate barriers and get my needs met?  What resources help me navigate barriers and does everyone have equal access to those resources?

 Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Resources:  


Dr. Kristine De Jesus is a coach and consultant specializing recovery and social justice advocate.  She is the Founder of The Wellness Cooperative, a wellness center dedicated to serving people from marginalized populations.

Angelo Lagares is the Founder and Director of Latino Recovery Advocates (LARA), which is a non-profit organization that promotes recovery services in Spanish and advocates to change policies in an effort to promote cultural competency and provide culturally appropriate services.

Paula Figueroa-Vega is the Director of Scholarship Programs of The Ammon Foundation.

The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our Ammon Recovery Scholars Program. Our program goals include: removing financial barriers through financial scholarships; providing strategic support for recipients through offering personal, professional and academic support; and creating a supportive peer community committed to combating the stigma associated with addiction by promoting that recovery is possible. We are committed to giving away at least $100,000 in scholarships annually and are looking to fund education as a stepping stone to stable employment, safe housing and adequate healthcare. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here or email scholarships@ammonfoundation.org.