Magazine article Policy & Practice

Looking toward a New Horizon Collaboratively

Magazine article Policy & Practice

Looking toward a New Horizon Collaboratively

Article excerpt

As a former state agency director, I am delighted and energized to be leading the American Public Human Services Association. During my tenure as the director of the Arizona Department of Economic Security, I served on the Executive Policy Council of APHSA and quickly came to appreciate the critical role the association played in amplifying the voice of health and human services and in being our eyes and ears in the nation's capital. Now, on behalf of the APHSA team, I am pleased to affirm our commitment to work with our members and partners in pursuit of excellence in health and human service policy and practice. I am hopeful that my experiences at both the federal and state levels will serve the association well as we collectively strive for better outcomes for our nation's children, adults, families and communities.

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In my short time on the job, I have been struck by a common cord I'm hearing from human service leaders across the country about the need to "recalibrate or reset" our focus and priorities to meet the new norm we're all facing. While this is certainly not the first time we've been confronted with reinventing ourselves, it is potentially the most pressing. There is no doubt that the current challenges facing human services are as daunting as they ever have been. How we deal with slashed state and local budgets, record caseloads, and discord among the American people begins with us, but it is not a challenge we should face alone. We can either choose to push the reset button with a renewed focus on finding ways to build shared alliances and leverage limited resources across multiple systems or continue down an ail-too-familiar path of reacting to the world around us and finding ourselves digging out of a never-ending hole.

Of course, "reinventing ourselves" is much easier said than done, but I am confident that we have the leadership and commitment to make it happen. My first week on the job assured me of that. First, I had the good fortune of reconnecting with many former colleagues at APHSA's annual State CEO Retreat, which brings together the administrators, commissioners and directors (CEOs) of state public health and human service agencies. We discussed the opportunities, pressing issues and overall political and policy landscape affecting health and human service work. I was struck (and reminded) by the deep commitment and years of experience in the room. We must find ways to continue to learn from one another and avoid reinventing the wheel when so much innovative and break-through work is happening across the country. …

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