Equity and Inclusion

Washington County Health and Human Services stands with the family of George Floyd and with all who are grieving and seek justice and healing. We are committed to working together as a community to ensure the health and safety of all communities of color, and to making Washington County a community that is centered on equity and justice. Please read this letter from the EOC Equity Officer and this statement from the Washington County Board of Commissioners.

Washington County Equity Principles for Reopening

Centering racial equity
Our data and our community remind us that as the current public health and economic crisis continues, people of color, particularly our Latinx community, are bearing the brunt of the effects of COVID-19. Washington County is putting racial equity considerations at the center of its response and recovery efforts.
This means that we will continue to prioritize our efforts and work to:
  • Collect and use disaggregated data
  • Plan for the most vulnerable
  • Implement race-conscious approaches to counter persistent racial inequities

Supporting people impacted by inequities

For an equitable and lasting recovery from the crisis, we must invest and prioritize in the needs of our most impacted community members. Washington County is working to ensure that people under isolation or quarantine will be able to meet their basic needs, such as food, utilities, and shelter. Now more than ever, it is critical for our County to invest and expand our role in supporting organizations led by people of color, particularly organizations working to address inequities from the ground up.  

We are working on contracts with multiple community-based organizations that provide services to communities of color. Each organization is working with us to determine how they can help support basic needs such as food, rent, and utilities. Social services support for families in quarantine and ongoing education to community members are also key components of this effort.

Building an equitable economy

Washington County supports a return to the diverse and thriving business community we saw before the pandemic. This means ensuring that small business owners, particularly those from communities of color, are able to receive funds to support their businesses. Additionally, liaisons from the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) are working to provide information to businesses in a variety of media formats and make sure guidance is translated into the top languages. In a diversifying country, dismantling structural racism and ensuring economic security for all is the path to a strong return of our economy

On April 15, Washington County announced a new grant and loan program for small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic. We prioritized applications from businesses who have historically faced a systemic lack of access to banking resources. We received and processed loans in several different languages.

Protecting and expanding on community voice

Community engagement is more important than ever as residents are uniquely positioned to be the agents and owners of community change. Our EOC will be embarking on training led by local organizations to strengthen our knowledge in this critical time.

We have regularly hosted conversations with community organizations and asked for information from them regarding community needs, available community resources and gaps. Washington County is contracting with CBOs to advise our response planning including working with community organizations on trainings, supporting current areas of need that our CBOs are addressing.

We will continue this work and make this a part of financial contracts going forward.

Equity response

We know that not all Washington County residents are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic in the same way. The evidence is growing that communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. There are factors at play for who gets tested, who gets treatment, and who is able to practice physical distancing.

While the virus itself does not discriminate, communities of color are experiencing higher rates of infection, complication and death from COVID-19. Individuals and communities who deal daily with poor housing, limited access to health care, lack of living wage jobs and paid sick time, language and literacy barriers, exposures to toxins and physical hazards, and limited access to higher education are more likely to have underlying medical conditions that make them at risk for serious illness from COVID-19 and less likely to have access to resources.

Washington County is committed to leading with racial equity, and is working to address these disparities. An Equity Officer leads a team in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). They are responsible for prioritizing the needs of our most vulnerable populations during this response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Equity Team is working in close collaboration with community partners to identify gaps in service and work to correct them. Some examples of this work include:

  • Surveying and collaborating with community partners to determine and prioritize community needs.
  • Identifying, creating and distributing COVID-19 outreach materials and resources in Spanish, including PSAs, social media posts, website content and radio ads. Topics covered include messaging for survivors of domestic abuse, information about HIPAA and public charge status for immigrant communities, and equity resources for law enforcement.
  • Providing low-literacy posters about COVID-19 in multiple languages for culturally-specific organizations in Washington County.
  • Expanding existing contacts and developing new partnerships through Disability, Aging and Veteran Services (DAVS) to support community-based organizations working with older adults for services such as telephone reassurance, nutrition support, and information and referral.
  • Coordinating with health systems and community partners to address the needs of migrant and seasonal farmworkers, including outreach and education, screening and surveillance for COVID-19 symptoms, creating guidance for employers to help reduce the spread of the virus, and coordinating distribution of food and face coverings for workers.

We have also been working on broader policy and procedural changes. These include creating an EOC Equity Charter, developing an Equity Assessment within the EOC and the implementation of a plan to bridge gaps, distributing an equity tool and providing support and training for its use, and developing policy recommendations to better assist and prepare communities of color during the current COVID-19 pandemic as well as future state emergencies. If you have questions about these tools, please contact our Equity Officer at EOC-Equity@co.washington.or.us.

Share facts, not fear

Fear, anxiety and lack of accurate information can lead to social stigma — discrimination against a group of people, a place or a nation. Stigma makes our community less safe by allowing misinformation to spread. We can counter stigma by sharing accurate information from reliable sources.

Also, we want everyone to know that Washington County Public Health is here to protect the health of all community members. People who seek health care or contact Public Health about COVID-19 symptoms will not be asked about their immigration or citizenship status. More information.

Information to Reduce Stigma

A person’s ethnicity, language or association with a country or region are not risk factors for COVID-19. 

Some residents have experienced acts of racism and prejudice, while some businesses have even reported fewer customers because of the myths surrounding COVID-19.

Health officials have emphasized that concern about COVID-19 is not a reason to deny care to a patient. 

You can interrupt stigma by sharing accurate information and avoid spreading misinformation. Stay informed through reputable, trusted sources:

Speak up if you hear, see or read misinformation or harassment. Gently correct the false information and remind the speaker: Prejudiced language and actions make us all less safe.

Report Discrimination

Any discrimination incident that may be motivated by another person’s race, color, disability, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity is considered a hate and bias incident. The act does not need to be a federal, state or local crime. 

Whether it happened to you or someone else, we urge you to report the incident either online or by calling 1-844-924-2427 so the Oregon Department of Justice can track the incident. For emergency assistance, dial 911.

Find Support

These incidents can cause fear and anxiety in all of us. Please call the 24/7 Crisis Line at 503-291-9111 for confidential help. Interpretation is available.

It is up to all of us to make sure that everyone feels welcome, supported and safe in our community. Thank you.