Fall frequently arrives in a most pleasing way—brilliant days and multicolored leaves, hints of cold to come, wisps of morning fog, vital energy after the summer’s heat. Like a harbinger of the harvest, fall is a time for taking stock, for asking whether we are prepared for the future. Will the fall harvest sustain us until spring? Are we prepared for the coming winter months? Are we ready for the coming future?
Fall also is a time for celebrating with family and friends—marking the Halloween and Thanksgiving holidays with our family, reveling in the sports of the season, enjoying a dinner with friends in front of an inviting fireplace on a crisp evening. Our family and friends are key to who we are and who we will become. We do not celebrate in isolation.
Fall 2012 is upon us. It’s a time for us to take stock of behavioral healthcare, where it has been, where it has come, where it is going. It’s also time for us to celebrate our many accomplishments over the past year.
Behavioral healthcare is in a far, far different place now than just a short year ago. Hope has been rekindled in us as we begin our once-in-a-generation journey toward health reform. Everywhere in our field, new energy and strengthened purpose are evident. The full potential of this undertaking has moved from distant hope to today’s demands. Now is the time to boldly harvest its potential for those who we know are disparate and without care.
At the same time, a protracted period of isolation finally is beginning to fade into the mist, and the glimmer of a coming new era of joint effort, collaboration, and partnership is just beginning to dawn on the horizon. We have successfully made the case for health homes, and we have been heard by many, far beyond the confines of our own field. These health homes will become key landmarks in our future. Peers will no longer die decades early for lack of basic health care. To realize this potential fully, we must reach out to those from the health care fields. They will become our new colleagues and friends in the future.
Prevention and Promotion
Our new work also will emphasize disease prevention and health promotion. Clearly, disease prevention trumps treatment, and prevention does cost much less than care. This upstream focus will provide us with a new and exciting opportunity to work not only with our current peers but also with persons who do not have any behavioral health condition. For most of us, this experience will be both unique and rewarding. We, ourselves, will be changed in the process.
For the first time, we have begun to understand the power of the communities where we live. Can we harness their untapped potential to promote health and prevent disease? Some communities can actually make us ill. How do we change that? These communities present us with a new challenge: How can we broaden our field beyond clinical care and clinical prevention to include community and population care? Who will become our new partners in pursuing these important challenges?
As we broaden our focus from care to prevention to community, we will be given the opportunity to become full community members ourselves. This will be good for us, and our communities will benefit as well.