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Department of Human Services Releases Racial Equity Report, Addressing Inequity and Anti-Racism Across Programs and Services

01/21/2021

Harrisburg, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller today announced the release of DHS’ first Racial Equity Report. The report details ongoing efforts underway by DHS and its partners to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion through this work in order to be a partner in correcting systemic racism and inequities.

“After the last year, we’ve learned more than ever that it is not enough to speak an opposition to racism and a commitment to equity. Black Lives Matter – but this is not just a value. This must be a call to action for all of us to use our privilege and our position to try to make the world a better place for everyone,” said Secretary Miller. “DHS has an incredibly broad reach that gives us the opportunity to impact people and these social determinants of health across their lifespan, and we are committed to not letting this opportunity slip away.” 

DHS serves more than 3 million people directly through its programs, but its reach extends much farther. As the public assistance agency for Pennsylvania, DHS administers Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which help Pennsylvanians access health care, purchase groceries, heat their homes in the winter, and cover other essential needs. DHS also oversees Pennsylvania’s child welfare system and licenses long-term care facilities, behavioral health and intellectual disability/autism service providers and residential care providers, and child care centers and early education programs across Pennsylvania. This reach – both through direct services and licensing and quality oversight – allows DHS to influence Pennsylvanians across their lifespan.

The report covers work in health equity, economic justice, early childhood education, child welfare, and juvenile justice. DHS is also looking to promote this work within the organization, where leadership and staff have participated in training and educational opportunities as an organization to broaden a collective understanding of topics like equity, racism, privilege, trauma, and intersectionality as it relates to the agency’s work. The report details an overview of Pennsylvania’s work in this space and relevant data where available, opportunities for growth identified, ongoing work, and next steps to help bring this work to fruition. The report is meant to establish a starting point for DHS and its partners to guide efforts moving forward.

“My hope is that by releasing this report, we can begin a conversation that will improve our work on behalf of the people we serve and help encourage others within our systems to be a part of this journey. This report is our commitment to making DHS an actively anti-racist organization where we can start to do our part to reverse centuries of inequity that many still experience every day,” said Secretary Miller. “We will seek to be an active ally in this work. The more than 3 million people DHS serves, our nearly 16,000 employees, and the citizens of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a whole deserve this.”

“The Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs commends Secretary Miller and the Racial Equity Steering Committee at DHS from moving beyond rhetoric and acknowledgement to measurable and meaningful action,” said Jalila Parker, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on African American Affairs. “Working to dismantle institutional racism and discriminatory practices is uncomfortable work that needs to become standard and comfortable in today’s diverse society.  We are committed to supporting Secretary Miller and DHS in this work.”

“The DHS Racial Equity report takes a closer lens of the alarming systemic racism that face our communities and is an issue that can no longer be ignored. According to census data there are approximately 1 million Latinos residing in Pennsylvania, and this data is likely to grow with the 2020 Census,” said Luz Colon, executive director of the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs. “We are dedicated to join forces and identify the gaps of services and lead the fight for justice, equity and create opportunity for the Pennsylvania Latinos. Together we will stand strong to address systemic inequities to live a better tomorrow.”

The full Racial Equity Report and an abbreviated summary are available here.

For more information about the Department of Human Services, visit www.dhs.pa.gov.

MEDIA CONTACT: Erin James - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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