2019 is Off and Running!

2019 is off and running! I hope that you enjoyed a season of rest, reflection, and gratitude and are geared up for a productive year ahead. Georgia’s public safety net for people with mental illness, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities has never been more vibrant or more vital to the health care landscape.

As Governor Kemp’s administration steps into leadership, we have heard loudly and clearly that there is a strong commitment to health care improvements, especially in rural areas. As national and state attention sharpens the focus on access to care, we embrace the opportunity to demonstrate our increased accountability and transparency throughout our service delivery system. We also emphasize the importance of the health and support needs of the individuals we serve through our five state hospitals and network of community-based providers throughout the state. With nearly 22,000 individuals served through the NOW and COMP waivers and through state and family support funds, and nearly 160,000 receiving mental health and substance abuse prevention and intervention services, our work is essential to the health of Georgia’s children, adults, families, and communities.

Of course, we do not do this work alone. While I am dependent upon a team of purpose-driven executives and DBHDD team members in every corner of Georgia, we also rely heavily upon the wisdom and experience of our partners.

This recognition of the value of partners is an important element of my reflections on 2018. I am so proud of the partnerships we have strengthened in the last year. Our partners work tirelessly in the face of workforce and funding challenges. Together, we will continue to grow and enhance our service delivery system so that we remain a reliable and accountable partner in Georgia’s dynamic health care environment. When we speak with a shared voice about individuals and families we serve, people listen. There has never been a more important time to promote recovery and independence, as these are the outcomes that real people and communities want to experience. While our priority is building on our strengths, we acknowledge the gaps in our system that require continued attention and collaboration. These gaps will also be at the forefront of our work.

Not only have we deepened partnerships with current allies in the General Assembly and in the community, with Community Service Boards, private hospitals, Sheriffs, judges, advocates, and sister agencies, but we have found new partners in universities, the farm community, Association of County Commissioners, Georgia Municipal Association, business leaders, and others deeply concerned about suicide and the opioid epidemic. We will continue the important conversations that were borne of our shared concerns.

In closing, I want you to know three things you can expect from DBHDD in 2019. First, partnerships will be at the forefront of our strategic decisions. We simply cannot be successful without collaboration and relentless communication. I want people to experience DBHDD not just as a partner, but a predictable and principled partner that seeks to listen and learn as we fulfill safety-net obligations. The second thing that you can expect is that we will continue our drive toward accountability and transparency. Governor Deal and the General Assembly generously supported our buildup of community services in recent years, and we want to demonstrate explicitly the ways in which we are improving the lives of Georgians with the dollars that have been invested. We are not perfect, but we sure are persistent. Finally, you can expect optimism. We believe that the needs of individuals with behavioral health and intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families are a reflection of Georgia’s commitment to vulnerable citizens. We know that Governor Kemp’s administration will advance the momentum we have already achieved. We intend to place Georgia at the forefront of states that possess the hearts and minds to deliver effective and efficient care that results in improved quality of life throughout our great state.

We look forward to doing this together!

Judy Fitzgerald

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