At IDHS, we have been celebrating Women’s History Month throughout March. It is a time to commemorate and honor the many accomplishments women have made across the Department, the state, and the world. We salute strong women leaders at IDHS, who are fiercely committed to ensuring that all people in Illinois achieve their full potential regardless of race, gender identity, ability, or zip code.
In a somber close-out to Women’s History Month and in a stark reminder that we still have much work to do to ensure that all are respected and receive the same freedoms and opportunities for who they are and how they identify, we turn our attention to the recent and tragic loss of two Black transgender women. Prominent trans justice activist Elise Malary is remembered as an advocate who “worked tirelessly for Black trans lives, including her own.” Just days later, Tatiana Labelle was found brutally murdered, and while less has been reported about her, we know and recognize that her life mattered. The lives of Black and Brown and other transgender women of color have been subject to erasure, oppression, abuse, and violence just because of who they are—they all matter and they all deserve much, much better.
We know that Black transgender women are disproportionately exposed to violence because of high rates of trauma, poverty, homelessness, and social isolation fostered by stigma, prejudice, and hatred. Our collective intention to advance equity and racial justice commits us to addressing the systemic issues that create and perpetuate these disproportionalities, and to help ensure equitable access to supports and services to help individuals thrive. Together, we must and will do all that we can to help protect the lives and dignity of Black trans women. IDHS will continue to work with the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming (TGNC) community to identify immediate needs and long-term solutions to ensure that everyone can achieve their full potential.
Building on the Administration’s commitment to and investment in human services, we have been diligently working on several initiatives across the agency. These include launching the State of Illinois Overdose Action Plan and naming of IDHS’ very own, David T. Jones, Director for the Division of Substance Use Prevention and Recovery, as an Associate Secretary at IDHS and as the State’s Chief Behavioral Health Officer as well as announcing $4 million in grant funding to support the Certified Recovery Support Specialist (CRSS) Success program. I invite you to read more below about these important and impactful efforts.
This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan for our Muslim colleagues, partners, and community. May this holy month of fasting, prayer, and charity bring renewed hope, peace, and happiness. Here at IDHS, many of our Muslim colleagues and partners are working tirelessly to welcome Afghan refugees into Illinois and to ensure they receive the human services and supports they need to resettle in our state. Ramadan Mubarak!
Grace B. Hou