Rod Sullivan’s Parting words,
“As of the December meeting, I am no longer a member of the East Central Mental Health Regional Governing Board. Leaving this group is bittersweet. I was present at the very first meeting to discuss MH/DS Regions, and good or bad, played a role in all the decisions we have made up to this point. I am very proud of the work we have done over those 5+ years.
Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) has been a big part of my career. I am a social worker by trade, and worked with a number of people as a direct care provider. I later went to work for the Iowa Medicaid program when Medicaid Waivers were first introduced. From there, I became the Executive Director of the Arc of Johnson County (now The Arc of SE Iowa). Finally, I was elected to the Johnson County Board of Supervisors in 2004. One of the biggest responsibilities County Supervisors have is the provision of services for people with disabilities.
I suppose in part because of my background, I was asked to share a few thoughts as I step down. Below is my best effort:
1. Like it or not, MH/DS services are political. If this issue matters to you, you need to vote. And you need to vote for people at the Federal, State, and County level that care about this issue. I know that politics is often viewed as ugly and unhelpful. But politics is the ONLY way we are going to improve the MH/DS system!
2. On one hand, we need the Federal government. The needs of people with disabilities far outstrip anything State or County governments can provide. So you MUST lobby our Federal Elected Officials. But I look to County-level government for inspiration.
Our Regional Governing Board consists of a few Supervisors who are very conservative, a couple Supervisors who are pretty progressive, and a few Supervisors who are moderates. Between the 9 of us, we have managed to work together to achieve some pretty good results. We follow practices of good government. We debate and discuss. There have been numerous compromises; it is rare to get everything you want. But the results are solid. I think the RGB could serve as a model for other levels of government!
3. The county-based Mental Health Regions are only a piece of the puzzle. Medicaid and Medicaid-funded services are even more critical to the people we serve. Lobbying for proper Medicaid services is every bit as important as providing the services we do. If we truly care about the people we serve, we simply MUST have a robust Medicaid program!
4. Another piece of the puzzle, even more important than Medicaid, is the families who care for the people we serve. This care is rarely compensated and always difficult. These caregivers are heroes, and deserve so much better from our systems of care. We cannot ignore their needs and provide adequate services!
5. The final and most important piece of the puzzle is the people who receive those services. I HATE the phrase “consumers”; it sounds as though they are simply sucking up resources. People with disabilities are just that people. Let¹s behave accordingly!
Thanks so much for the opportunity to serve the East Central Region! It has been a pleasure and a privilege!”