“For time and the world do not stand still.  Change is the law of life.  And those who only look to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”- President John F. Kennedy

As much of the US debates the political disruption which has catapulted our society into change, I have been presented an opportunity to actively participate in a community of citizens directly impacted in this unique discourse.  In December, I was approached and accepted the role of Chairperson for the Health and Wellness Committee for He Got Up!  whose mission is to break down silos that exist among care providers in Central Florida.  Secondary is to create an engaged provider community working together to drive change.  On April 9th, 2017, He Got Up! will bring together 15,000 homeless and working poor from the tri-county area for services which will start many of the path to healing and recovery.  However, as I have already witnessed, the magnitude of this event’s depth and reach far surpasses one day.  We have created a powerful movement of change in our community.

Friday morning, over coffee with some top community leaders in Central Florida, we prepared for the final charge into event day for He Got Up!  Representatives were present from all walks of life; from people in recovery, to leaders in government agencies, to for-profit business leaders.  Our goal was to tighten up the final details, backfill some missing roles and generally divide the last-minute urgencies all major events undergo.  It struck me that over the past few months we have become more than volunteers, we have become close friends working to question the changes in our community and deciding on how each of us can be change leaders in our varying roles.

The conversation, as it often does, moved from the event arrangements to politics and news.  Our discussion focused on the recent cuts from our Presidential Administration, who it would most impact, how each of our organizations would be impacted, and our plans to adapt.  We thought about a future where our clients and children would suffer through a day hungry and teachers would dig further into their pocket to feed these kids.  We thought about a future devoid of literature, art, field trips, and museums.  Some folks were fearful of job losses, including their own.  Others, who deal with direct patient care, wondered how defunding Medicaid or the loss of Mental Health Parity would decimate their patients’ lives and impact our community.  However, we all came to one universal conclusion, change is going to come and we can choose be the change or let the change transform us.

There is an issue in our community we must face.  It is a social issue greater than the government or not-for-profit organizations or even corporate enterprise.  This issue has many legs and it may seem too monstrous to face head on, but we have no choice.  The family unit in our social structure is broken.  We have single parents working two to three jobs, sleeping in a car with their kids, and no food to eat.  We have mental health issues left unaddressed due to social disparity and a broken continuum of care.  We have doctors squeezed by for-profit insurers, doctors who no longer want to practice because they are to inundated with laws and documentation needs to have time to care about the client’s they serve.  We have overworked, underpaid teachers forced to remove the joy from their class and replace it with tests.  We have children who are screaming out with health issues, including mental health, arising from poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and over stimulation.  We have the poorest among us unable to rise out of the depths of poverty and move their family forward and they have lost hope that the American dream is for them.  This is surely a big, hairy, ugly monster.

So today I sit, the leader of a mental health organization and an appointed change maker, whether I like it or not.  I am as worried as every other citizen.  Will our company be the one to lose out when Medicaid funding hits?  Will state block grants allow enough money to care for my patients?  Will I be able to ensure continuity of care for my clients, pursue compliance, provide quality and excellence in care?  Will I be able to ensure my staff have the peace of mind to come to work and engage their client’s recovery daily?  The truth is I don’t know the answer.  What I know is this, I won’t give up.  I won’t give up on my clients, my staff, my community, or my family.  Today, not only am I standing with my friends, colleagues, and leaders for Central Florida to be the change, I am imploring you to stand too.

Being a change maker isn’t hard.  It’s a tiny piece of your life to make a huge impact.  When you say, “How can I help?” consider this your call to action.  Pick one of these ten things and put it to work today, tonight, tomorrow.  Be a change maker in our community.

  1. Call a school in need and offer to support a class. Come in to that class once a month and do a science project with them, read to them, or do something not critical, but exciting and fun with the kids.
  2. Pick a school to sponsor at your company and fill their food pantry, donate a computer, or donate a whole computer lab.
  3. If you are a construction company or you provide low skilled labor, ask a homeless person if they need a job and help them find one.
  4. Call the Coalition for the Homeless, United Against Poverty or any other mission in our Community and ask what they need. $20 dollars a month from every person in Orlando can feed our city.
  5. Spend time with your own kids volunteering, so we are teaching them the value of caring.
  6. Contact the Boys and Girls Club and become a mentor of a child.
  7. Join a Habitat for Humanity group and build a home for someone in need.
  8. Donate your used blankets and towels to Pet Alliance to care for the animals and volunteer to walk the dogs.
  9. Visit a museum, the Space Center, the Science Center. Ticket sales allow these important programs to benefactor field trips for children.
  10. Purchase bottles of water, bus passes, or toiletry kits and keep them in your car. When you see a homeless person, pass it out.

I am going to steal a line from the president, “Let’s make America great again.”  Not with a war of words and anger and hostility, but as a powerful community of citizens who care about the future for our children.  Let’s break this down into something simple that can be tackled.  Let’s focus on making Central Florida great again.  Let’s make the business of our communities to care, be kind, and be the change.

Date: March 20, 2017