CMS Supports Black Lives Matter

Jun 12, 2020 | Blog

CMS Letter to All Employees (6/4/2020)

Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in, then you see it everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. -Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

We as a company typically spend a lot of time and effort focusing our conversation on the opioid epidemic and the role we can play in this crisis. We lately have been communicating frequently on the COVID crisis and the impact we can make on mitigating its consequences. We tend to keep our conversations within the scope of where we can make the greatest impact. However, we have all been heartbroken over the last week by the events surrounding the wrongful and criminal death of George Floyd; not just in the way that he was murdered, but in how some of our citizens, law enforcement agencies, and elected officials have responded. And it is a reminder of the countless other hateful atrocities that have occurred decade after decade in our country against specific races and groups of people.

I am reaching out to all of you because the last few weeks have been exhausting and overwhelming to all of us. Our patients, our staff, our families and friends, our entire country; we have been hit with what feels like relentless wave after wave of agony and injustice. And the murder of George Floyd and the aftermath it has caused impacts us all on a huge spectrum of degrees so it is not always easy for us to gauge the impact that events like these might be having on those around us. But my ask to all of you is to please provide feedback to us as an agency on how we can improve. It can be via an email to me or anyone in our leadership team or brought up as an item on our weekly Town Hall. This is an ongoing and essential conversation that must not end when the protests die down.

My hope is that if there is any silver lining that will result from these events, it will be in the fact that the sun is being let in, cleaning our land, forcing us all to address the virus of racism that has infected our society since even before our country’s birth; And that we as an agency can grow and evolve in the face of any crisis that negatively impacts our staff, our patients, and the communities in which we serve. But I have no doubt that the overlap between this issue and the opioid crisis is one where we as an agency are in a unique position to make an impact. Research has shown that regardless of socio-economic class and other variables, the race of someone suffering from an opioid use disorder is strongly correlated with whether or not they receive treatment. In fact, African Americans are half as likely to receive treatment after an overdose as Caucasians. This is one area where we as an agency, full of die-hard, passionate, out-to-change-the-world advocates can absolutely make an impact[1].

So I call on all of you, as professional evangelists[2], destined to make a positive impact on our world, to incorporate into your evangelizing the message that racism in our country is a real problem, and the status quo is not getting us towards a resolution to this; And that the way we are going to move the needle in this fight is from a place of compassion, self-reflection (listening to and honoring the reality of those we serve[3]), and a sense of urgency (seeing challenges as opportunities to demonstrate initiative[4]).

I’d also encourage everyone to remember the police departments who are tasked with protecting our communities and not discriminate against an entire organization based upon the despicable actions of some of their worst offenders, even if there are systemic problems within the organization that need to be aggressively addressed. Police officers are on the front lines of crisis after crisis and the role they play in eliminating the consequences of substance use disorders in the communities we serve[5] is incredibly important towards helping our communities heal.

So my parting thoughts are these: I don’t have the words to fix this, only the ability to listen; your leadership team is present, walking alongside you; we are here to listen and to hear you; and we understand that racism is rampant in our society, both discreetly and prominently, and needs to be addressed in a meaningful way.

Knowing and accepting right from wrong is the first step towards confronting racism in ourselves and our society. Accepting that change is needed, and leading that change is what needs to happen next. I personally am donating more of my earnings towards organizations working on racial justice and I am committing to educate myself more on issues of racial justice, including how they impact the workplace.

We all need to take action, from a place of compassion and inclusion, to condemn immorality when we see it, to work towards educating and evangelizing our core values to everyone willing to listen, and to make as much of a positive impact in our actions as opportunities afford. Finally, we need to acknowledge with absolute conviction that Black Lives Matter. Working together as an inclusive and supportive team, we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on our communities. However, we cannot be fully effective unless we acknowledge our own blind spots and prejudices, and work to overcome those on a daily basis, with an impassioned and relentless effort.


Nick Stavros
Chief Executive Officer
Community Medical Services


[1] CMS Value: We value people who are passionate about making an impact.
[2] CMS Value: We are evangelists for practices grounded in science and evidence.
[3] CMS Value: We listen to and honor the reality of those we serve.
[4] CMS Value: We see challenges as opportunities to demonstrate initiative.
[5] CMS Vision Statement: Leading the change to eliminate the consequences of substance use disorders in our communities.

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