Non-Profit Leadership: The Traumatic State of Systems of Care Organizations

One of the realities of those who have serious mental health needs, drug addiction needs, health needs and an array of other issues is that they are largely dependent on our systems of care for support and guidance. I know from a variety of sources of feedback that it is difficult to gain the support you need from our healthcare organizations and systems of care. It is frustrating, difficult and sometimes angering. It feels like, in America, we should be able to serve our citizens with better care than is currently the case.

One of my roles at Lakeside is to consult and advise organizations that are in need of trauma-informed and trauma-responsive training and related skills. We offer a number of training and consulting opportunities and I am often asked to guide the process. What I have learned is how many organizations are struggling to achieve the goals of their mission because of a myriad of issues.

For those who run organizations that help clients through their struggles, we are often overwhelmed by the level of needs that are presented to us. It is pervasive and complicated with challenging interventions that are extremely difficult to manage.  Also, we have our own organizational issues of change, underemployment, difficulty in hiring and all the people conflicts that make our days more difficult than we have ever anticipated.  The problems can seem endless and each day is filled with so many issues that we must stop and spend a great deal of our time putting out the fires so that more significant consequences are mitigated.

Many of us seeking help for our clients are being met with systems that seem difficult to understand and to navigate. Particularly since the COVID pandemic, organizations that are providing services to those in need have had to meet challenges that have made their world far more difficult and much harder to manage. Many reliable and seasoned employees have quit or retired. The demands to keep ever-growing paperwork current, the complications of supply problems, the financial strains, the compliance issues, the mental health of our employees and the complication of technology are just a few of the problems that sometimes feel insurmountable. 

As I speak with organizational leaders, we are finding that the emotional, administrative, relational and practical difficulties of organizational management have slowed our progress and hampered our ability to achieve our mission. We are also working diligently to meet the needs of our patients and clients which have grown exponentially.

At Lakeside we offer training and support to organizations. Yet as we understand the depth of these issues, we recognize that It is just not enough to resolve all that we are facing as a country. I don’t think our problems are going to be alleviated soon but with time and the right values, we may be able to help each other move forward to better support the very systems that care for us. This will take cultural patience, understanding and improved ways for our systems of care to operate.

We have a lot to recover from as a country. It will start with how we treat each other in the moments that are most crucial. Those are the moments where we need our systems of care the most. They may not be equipped to handle the number of situations they are attempting to serve but they are the starting point for how we get help to those in need. They too have been traumatized. We will all need to work together to create improved environments for them and for us. 

At Lakeside we are hoping to be the training support for trauma that has occurred. Gradually as we encourage our organizational leaders to support their staff and as we recover together from all that we have experienced, we will emerge with greater depth and understanding of our mission and how to achieve it with more compassion for each other and those we serve.

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