National Council President and CEO Linda Rosenberg started off Monday’s conference events by encouraging conference attendees to “be the change you want to see.”
“We must make a difference in policy in practice and in relationships that mark our work and our life,” Rosenberg told the crowd. “We must listen to stories that move us and take from them the small changes that can transform our world.”
That is what Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone did, Rosenberg recalled from last year’s conference. When Canada told his story, “he brought many of us to tears,” she said. Recounting Canada’s story, Rosenberg noted that one of the saddest moments in his life was when his mother told him that Superman didn’t exist. He believed in him, he had told the audience last year, because he thought it would take a superhero to clean up his neighborhood. Then Canada said he realized that “there was no one coming to rescue us.”
Just like in Harlem, Rosenberg pointed out that “there is no one coming to rescue us.” She added: “We must become smarter and better equipped to thrive in the ever changing political and healthcare reality,” she said.
Encouraging attendees to build the “all-important relationships” with their Senators and Representatives, Rosenberg also made clear that they were “not going to be out there alone.” She also talked about how the National Council is fighting to halt the erosion of many of their programs. Looking ahead, Rosenberg discussed proposals to restructure Medicaid (from a federal-state partnership into a block grant), acknowledging that it would result in $750 million in cuts in federal Medicaid spending over the next 10 years.
“We cannot let that happen," said Rosenberg. “The people we serve are counting on us to speak up.”
Rosenberg said the National Council is working on expanding and strengthening the work force, training community psychiatrists and emerging leaders, preparing minority professionals and mental health first aiders. “We are continuing to lobby congress for federally qualified behavioral health centers,” she said, “creating parity and bringing parity to you just as hospitals and health centers have."
In addition to supporting the integration of primary care into behavioral health, Rosenberg closed with acknowledging the need to explore the “collaboration, collocation, and even the integration of mental health and substance abuse.” According to Rosenberg, “the time is now.