Shortly after taking office President Obama sent a memorandum to all governmental department heads in which he said: “My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.”
I think most people would agree with this lofty goal, but how does it really play out across the country as the political and funding environment becomes harsher and more challenging?
As the recovery slowly grinds forward, more and more states are forced to make difficult and politically unpopular cuts to programs and reductions to service. In recent months I have become more concerned about the issue of transparency in this process. Is the public being informed as to what is transpiring and what the consequences really are? Are governmental entities even being open with each other? Or do they prefer to stay, as I heard one official recently say, “under the radar?”
It seems to me, that you would only be afraid to have an open airing of issues and prefer to stay “under the radar,” if you had something to hide or if you lacked trust in the public, the press, or other government entities to understand and deal responsibly with the issues. It seems like this is a way to try to disguise questionable actions and is contrary to the doctrine of transparency.
Perhaps policy makers really fear that voters will actually comprehend the issues, but disagree with some of the decisions and actions.
I have always believed that behavioral healthcare does not get the degree of public or governmental support it deserves, because we have not been transparent enough. We do a terrible job of putting a human face on our story and objectively demonstrating the needs that exist and the effectiveness of treatment.
Finally, I don’t believe, as a field, we are interested in any special privileges or considerations, if they have to be snuck by the public or government monitors. It may be naïve, but I have faith that our field can stand on it own merits.