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I grew up in a union household. So I learned very early about the concept of solidarity. We sang “Solidarity Forever” and heard the word a lot.
Solidarity means, “mutual support within a group.” In other words, I do for you, and you do for me. It is really a simple and timeless idea. We are stronger together. Unfortunately, far too many people in the Democratic Party do not seem to grasp the concept.
I think solidarity is thesingle biggest issue for Democrats right now! By far! Democrats are viewing the world and their pet issues through selfish lenses, and that makes it very difficult to maintain solidarity.
Here are the things I am seeing and hearing: I’m not poor, so Medicaid and food stamps are no big deal. I’m not black, so police shootings are no big deal. I’m not a woman, so sexual harassment is no big deal. I can’t get pregnant, so choice is no big deal. I’m not in a union, so labor issues are no big deal. I don’t have kids in school, so education is no big deal. I’m not a person with mental health needs, so mental health is no big deal. I’m not a member of the transgender community, so I don’t care about “bathroom bills.” It goes on, and on, and on.
So what happens when you dismiss something that’s critical to someone else? She/he dismisses the issue that is critical to you. And now you both lose. There are only so many possible outcomes. The best outcome is that you support each other, and both get what you want.
And that is the point of solidarity. It is the only weapon Democrats have against a much better funded opponent. We must hang together, or we will surely hang separately!
I am no longer a member of the East Central Mental Health Regional Governing Board. Leaving is bittersweet. I was present at the very first meeting to discuss Mental Health Regions, and good or bad, played a role in all the decisions we have made up to this point. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over those five years.
Mental Health and Disability Services has been a big part of my career. I’m 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 was asked to share a few thoughts as I step down. Below is my best effort:
• Like it or not, MH/DS services are political. If this issue matters to you, you need to vote. I know politics is often viewed as ugly. But politics is the only way we are going to improve the MH/DS system!
• The county-based Mental Health Regions are only a piece of the puzzle. Medicaid and Medicaid-funded services are critical to the people we serve. Lobbying for proper Medicaid services is 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!