The 2020 Word of the Year

Greetings All,

I learned this week that the word of the year for 2020 is “pandemic”—not exactly breaking news. I can certainly acknowledge the power that this pandemic has had over our lives in 2020. And yet I want to offer my own word of the year for 2020, and that word is “hope.” For me, our individual and collective sense of hope has also been a driving force in 2020. As we engage in a very different holiday season than our traditional one, I aim to celebrate this gift of hope.

I start this reflection steeped in gratitude. First and foremost, for the DBHDD team. In our hospitals and across all settings, I am so proud of the tireless embrace of our mission to serve. We know that the desire for treatment, recovery, independence, and the needs of vulnerable individuals, families, and communities have not subsided in this challenging year. In many places, these needs have accelerated.

To our hospital team, whose dedication and drive have allowed the doors of our safety net to remain open, we thank you for saying “yes” each and every day.

To our team members serving individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, your tasks have been monumental. Administrative adjustments that would have taken months, you completed in days—all with an eye toward enabling people and providers to thrive despite the presence of COVID-19.

To our behavioral health staff, you mirrored this drive to be creative and persistent in your support for the continued delivery of services, modifying rules, and supporting innovation. You recognized the importance of outreach, providing weekly webinars to staff around the state, and established the COVID-19 emotional support line, which remains open as a lifeline of support to all Georgians.

I also want to acknowledge our operational teams. Services and supports cannot be available without the diligent efforts of individuals who are equally passionate about service to Georgians with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. From Budget and Finance to Information Technology, across Human Resources, Learning, and Legal Services and Policy, and on to Quality and Compliance, we cannot serve without your competent and critical execution of essential elements of our business.

Team DBHDD, your commitment is deeply appreciated.

Why would so many people work so hard for so long in the face of uncertainty? I believe it is our collective hope that drives this persistence. Hope is the fuel of the engine of service delivery. We know there are individuals who appear to have given up or who it seems that society has left behind. Our compassion is essential, and the hope that a life of independence and recovery is always possible facilitates action. During 2020, we have increased production of this fuel of hope and channeling it into each corner of our vast system to assure Georgians that the safety net is viable. We cannot make this promise without the support of leaders and partners in the state. Governor Kemp and his team have recognized the importance of our mission, and throughout the various chapters of this pandemic story, they have provided tangible assistance and support. Commissioner Frank Berry and the Department of Community Health, as well as Commissioner Kathleen Toomey of the Department of Public Health, have answered every call from DBHDD. This desire to serve across state agencies runs deep.

In communities across Georgia, our providers face substantial obstacles, and they too, seek solutions. From our Community Service Boards across the state to private providers large and small, we admire your commitment as well. In regular conversations, we know that you have sustained hope as well. It’s been remarkable to observe, and it is vital to maintain.

The news of a vaccine certainly lifts our spirits as we eye the 2021 calendar. We want things to be different, but at DBHDD we recognize that the immediate situation calls for doubling down on diligence to protect ourselves and the people we serve. We intend to hold firm to indispensable protocols and determined vigilance as the days and weeks roll forward. Hope powers this effort. We will emerge stronger and smarter, humbled by a virus that has transformed every aspect of our lives. On this day, what I choose to see is the indomitable spirit that has characterized the year we never wished for. I hope that your holidays bring some peace, joy, and rest—wherever you may find it. Above all, I wish for you that the gift of hope endures, energizing our relentless willingness to be of service to Georgians in need.