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We were very fortunate to be able to interview Terri Lawless, M.D., of East Central Regional Hospital prior to her retirement from DBHDD with close to 30 years of dedicated service. In case you don’t know Dr. Lawless, she has served in several leadership roles at the Gracewood Campus.
March was replete with lookbacks and milestone markers acknowledging the one-year anniversary of the events when COVID became “real” for each of us. While we might recognize a different day or a specific moment as the beginning of this new reality, together, we have shared a collective historical experience that was also deeply personal.
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.
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.
November brings the opportunity to reflect on both service and gratitude, as we celebrate both Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. While so many elements of life are viewed differently in 2020, there are a few constants to be honored, including these very special holidays. Each one is important to Americans, and I have always admired the way these two holidays illuminate the human experience and remind us of the ways in which we bring out the best in each other.
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.
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.
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?
Emile Risby, M.D., joined the DBHDD leadership team as chief medical officer in August of 2011. In June of 2013 his role expanded, and he became the director of the Division of Hospital Services and chief medical officer. Prior to joining the DBHDD leadership team, he served as the clinical director of Georgia Regional Hospital in Atlanta through a contract with Emory University from August 2006 through July 2011. He has more than 30 years of experience as a psychiatrist in the public sector and is board certified in psychiatry and forensic psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Greg Hoyt joined DBHDD when it was the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Addictive Diseases under the former Department of Human Resources team in April 2000 as the regional coordinator for the West Central area of Georgia. Greg also served as the director of regional operations and the acting division director before being named director of hospital operations in July of 2007. He has more than 30 years of executive-level management experience in the human services and health care industry, in the states of Alabama and Georgia. Of note, Greg served as an assistant commissioner for the Alabama Department of Human Services.