2021: I See The Light

For all of us worn down by the events of 2020, the New Year has so far offered little relief.

Where we thought we might turn the page from 2020 on January 1, we found the same, tiring tests on our energy and optimism: COVID-19 infection rates soared, our healthcare system reached a new level of overburdened and lines swelled at food banks as Americans continued to suffer through the economic consequences of a global pandemic.

Then, on January 6, we were hit with a new wave of fear and uncertainty as an attempted insurrection in our nation’s Capital threatened the tenets of our democracy.

If the end of the tunnel is near, the light may be hard to see. But I am here to assure you: it most certainly exists!

I see the light. First, I see it in the form of vaccines. Second, I see it in our collective resilience.

The initial rollout of vaccines has provided a much-needed infusion of positive news—a demonstration of the human ability to solve problems through innovation and sheer persistence. While the vaccine supply is currently limited, and distribution is variable, we know that Georgia’s resolve to address this issue is unwavering.

In our own vaccination efforts, we have prioritized our staff and patients across our five state hospitals. We are learning to be flexible and will continue to advocate for the needs of the people that we serve across all settings, especially those most vulnerable. We are heartened that our healthcare providers—including providers in residential settings—are included in DPH’s Phase 1A of the vaccine rollout, and I encourage anyone who can to sign up for the vaccine through their local health departments.

We know that some feel cautious about taking the vaccine, and we understand there is historical context for some of these concerns. Our Medical Director, Dr. Emile Risby was first in line to assure DBHDD hospital staff and patients of our confidence in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

While the challenges related to vaccine availability are very real, I am reminded of the early days of testing in Georgia, where access was not always predictable, and the production of results was inconsistent. We have come a very long way since those early days. These efforts always involve human capital. We know well that every aspect of our public and private health care system in the state is stretched as never before.

Governor Kemp has asked for our patience as Dr. Toomey and our partners in the Department of Public Health work tirelessly to advance the availability of vaccines.

We will heed Governor Kemp’s call for patience just as we forcefully advocate for vulnerable populations. Most importantly, we will continue to emphasize the importance of other strategies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19: wearing masks, limiting gatherings, social distancing, and frequent hand washing. We will lead by example and follow with support for steadfast leaders and workers around the state. And, as always, DBHDD stands ready to assist where we’re needed.

Our DBHDD team and our valued partners in the provider and advocacy communities have been incredibly resilient over the past 11 months. And this resilience—this unwavering resolve to continue serving our community—is the second reason I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Our community holds among us a limitless supply of hope. It is a part of who we are and what we do best. And we at DBHDD know hope is not a burden any one of us holds individually; instead, it is activated through our connectedness and collaboration.

This is what we have to offer to our fellow Georgians in this seemingly darkest hour.

We have extensive experience with patience and persistence in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. We are prepared to weather the storms of unpredictability deploying compassion and respect, which are at the heart of our service delivery system.

Despite the challenges of the last 11 months, we remain deeply rooted in our shared belief in independence and recovery. And, above all, we are willing to share our belief in the power of hope and the human spirit.

At DBHDD, we never do our work alone, and now, more than ever, we join hands with our fellow Georgians to commit to continued vigilance, and to share our hope that recovery is possible, knowing that our resilience will strengthen us in the weeks and months ahead.