Every so often you attend an event that energizes and encourages your work. On March 17th, I had the pleasure of that very experience while attending a phenomenal and stimulating event hosted by Atlantic Magazine and editor of Atlantic Live, Margaret Low Smith.
The event featured Linda Rosenberg, CEO of the National Council on Behavioral Health (NCBH), and kicked off with an interview between Steve Clemons and Senator Debbie Stabenow. In her third term representing the state of Michigan, Senator Stabenow is a true bridge builder. Through her roles on the Senate Agriculture, Energy, Finance, and Budget Committees, her work impacts the lives of nearly every American. Of particular note to us, she recently introduced the Excellence in Mental Health Act which serves to expand access to community mental health services and improve funding for treatment centers at the state and community level.
I have followed the work of Ms. Rosenberg at the NCBH for some time. She has brought a renewed attention and focus to the world of behavioral health and the treatment modalities which are critically important to addressing this issue. Running an organization that counts 2,000 health care organizations as members (and their ¾ of a million staff!) she and her organization have a tremendous reach. Together they touch the lives of over 8 million children, adults, seniors, and families battling a mental or behavioral health disorder.
Part of her success has been around in raising awareness for an issue that is still chronically underfunded and overlooked by much of the health care community. She was at the table when the Affordable Care Act was being drafted and made sure that the needs of the men and women served by the NCBH were represented.
She launched her career as a social worker and family therapist before going on to work in the New York State Office on Mental Health. As a licensed practitioner, her advocacy work is informed by her experience working in the field. She understands not only the broad implications – socially and economically – of national legislation around mental and behavioral health care, but how those laws and regulations, specifically around payer rules, affect the work of the 1.9 million community and social service workers in the US.
Social workers like Ms. Rosenberg play a vital role in our nation. They are often the last line of defense for vulnerable individuals struggling to address the challenges of modern life. They work at large hospitals and in small community centers, and serve countless adults, children, and families every day. They have one of the highest reported stress levels among full-time employees and earn below the median income level for professions requiring an advanced degree or certification. Yet, these women and men are so passionate about their work and the impact they are having on the communities in which they live. I am inspired by great national leaders like Ms. Rosenberg, and by the all of the social workers, counselors, therapists, and mental health professionals at Family Matters. The impact of their collective work cannot be calculated in dollars and cents alone, but can be seen all around in the quality of life of just about every community in the nation.