The 2020 Word of the Year

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.

Time for an Update: A Slice of our Work

Hello friends, colleagues and supporters. We seem to have turned the page to fall with the emergence of pumpkins, football and changing leaves. These are reminders that despite the uncertainty that has characterized 2020, elements of our existence roll forward, albeit with new practices and precautions, and new opportunities as well. Conversations with friends, partners and stakeholders that rely on DBHDD and our provider network have challenged me to acknowledge the exhaustion and unpredictability we have experienced, and at the same time embrace the joy of small pleasures and reinvigorate our safety net mission.

COVID-19: The Work Ahead

As we approach the six-month mark since the “Shelter in Place” order, you may be, like me, experiencing a diverse range of emotions on any given day, or any given hour. In March, many of us presumed we would be “over” this pandemic by now. With eyes wide open, we have come to recognize that “over” and “past” are probably not the right words to capture our understanding of COVID-19. Multiple elements of daily life for our staff, providers and the people we serve have been fundamentally altered and we have been challenged to adapt almost everything we do.

What Next?

The question I hear most often right now is “What next?” I hear it from our neighbors wondering what the start of school will look like. I hear it from families whose children engage in sports activities. I hear it on the lips of local business owners, including my favorite coffee shop, struggling to remain afloat with to-go orders and reduced seating. Closer to home I hear it from my colleagues in the 2 Peachtree location wondering about the viability of our office space and conference rooms. I hear it from providers in our service delivery network, eager to serve as the safety net, but stretched to meet guidelines and demands. I know our hospitals are wondering “what next” as well. Will there be a time when the uncertainty stimulated by COVID19 does not dominate our daily planning and decision-making?

Moving Forward in the New Normal

It’s hard to put words to the array of feelings and experiences we have endured in 2020. Each week seems to add new twists and turns to an already complicated storyline.  Looking backward, I am able to reflect with pride on the DBHDD hospital system and provider network.  Our collective ability to lean into uncertainty and remain focused on our mission to serve has led to remarkable progress and continuity of care for many vulnerable Georgians.  But we have also experienced grief, gaps in service, and longing for the way things used to be.  Like me, you may recognize some simple activities and pleasures that we have taken for granted.  I have also experienced unexpected joy in stories of acts of compassion, empathy, and courage.  It is as if the full human experience has been squeezed into the course of a few months.

Above All, There Is Hope

It seems challenging to make sense of the world around us right now.  We are still trying to understand COVID-19 while protecting ourselves and our families and continuing to serve vulnerable individuals throughout our hospital and community-based safety net network.  At the same time, the fiscal damage wreaked by the pandemic is felt in every corner of the economy, and state agencies are facing difficult budget reductions.  Amidst this landscape, we are now experiencing unrest and violence across our nation and close to home in Georgia as well, and we know that minority communities have been disproportionately impacted.  These surely are trying times.

A Letter to Our Partners

Whether you are someone who receives DBHDD services, a family member, a provider, an advocate, a DBHDD team member, an elected official, or just getting to know us, I want to thank you for your support of our work and the people we serve.  I also want to thank you for taking the time to read this edition of our newsletter, which offers updates as well as messages of optimism and hope. 

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

Greetings!  Many of you may know that March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.  During this important month, we join with our partners – individuals, families, advocates and allies, providers, employers, and community leaders – in celebrating people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and raising awareness about inclusion in our communities. 

We are in the people business

As we begin 2020, I am filled with hope and enthusiasm as I see a landscape full of opportunities to serve Georgians in need and also to impact the health care environment of the future in our state.  We have been included in many vital conversations regarding health care.  There is a growing recognition of the importance of mental health and substance use disorders, and also acknowledgement of the growing population and needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  DBHDD and members of our provider network have remarkable experience, expertise, and commitment to high-quality service that has enabled a measurable transformation of our system across our five state hospitals and our network of community-based services.  We are also fortunate to have strong and knowledgeable advocates, clients, and family members who challenge us to be persistent in our demand for improved access and resources.  Together, we seek solutions that are not separate from health care conversations, but rather a vital part of the dialogue in Georgia.

Being Principled: Doing The Right Thing

As the year winds down and we enter the holiday season, I want to express my sincerest gratitude to each of you.  Whether you are a provider, a DBHDD staff member, an elected official, an advocate, or part of one of the many agencies and organizations that support the people we serve, your work makes a meaningful difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Georgians who count on you.