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NORTH BEND — Over 150 attended the inaugural South Coast Diversity Conference organized by the Department of Human Services.

On Wednesday at The Mill Casino-Hotel, the conference covered a variety of issues in the workplace and accessing state systems for marginalized groups.

“The Department of Human Services does a mini-conference for its staff and we had a lot of community partners want to participate, so we decided to expand and incorporate a steering committee with partners at the table to make this happen,” said Gloria Clark, the community outreach coordinator for DHS District 7 during the event.

Attending Day 1 of the conference included Head Start, South Coast Family Harbor, South Coast Educational District, United Way, North Bend School District, Coos Health and Wellness, as well as Advanced Health. For Day 2, which is today, Thursday, April 10, attendees will include local organizations and businesses.

“The point for why we did this was education and awareness about the ever-changing world and being able to accept everyone for who they are and understanding that everyone has their own journey and background and embrace that,” Clark said.

Some of the presenters featured the National Alliance on Mental Illness from Portland. Representing the alliance was Chris Bouneff, who spoke about the landscape for behavioral health in Oregon.

“The presentation provides general awareness about how normal and commonplace mental health disorders are, the difficulty of reaching out and finding help, and the general societal and healthcare barriers that individuals and families face in seeking help,” read an overview about the presentation.

Also presenting were Jesse Beers and Doug Barrett with the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians. They spoke about the struggles that tribal members face when trying to access state systems.

Jason Mak with DHS’s Office of Equity and Multicultural Services also presented, focusing on microaggressions in the workplace, or bullying for women, people of color, people with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals.

Finally, Bridge 13 out of Portland presented on community education for proper pronouns, gender expressions, anatomy, sexual orientation, and ally-ship.

“The goal is to bring this back every year with a variety of presenters,” Clark said. “We will just be waiting for feedback from attendees.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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