Julie Bluhm: Goodbye 2020

Dec 31, 2020

This year, we’ve pushed ourselves to continue to adapt to an incredible amount of uncertainty while continuing to meet the needs of our staff and clients. We’ve accomplished a lot. We introduced a new logo, website, and brand, opened a new treatment center (the first of its kind in Scott County!), significantly expanded our office space, upgraded technology, and had two successful virtual fundraisers. We’re proud and we’re exhausted.

While we are eager to enter into a new year, we are facing an uncertain future.

  • Our mental health system is crumbling. Years of low rates for mental health services resulted in the loss of critical parts of our mental health system. According to a survey of providers completed by The National Council on Behavioral Health, 54% of respondents noted having to close at least one mental health or substance use disorder treatment program, and 65% had to turn away or reschedule clients/patients due to lack of resources. In our own community, many service providers have had to close programs and layoff staff.
  • Mental health needs are increasing. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll conducted earlier this year, 53% of adults in the U.S. reported that their mental health had been negatively impacted by worry and stress related to COVID-19.
  • We still don’t have a full continuum of care. While many people have access to mental health outpatient services through their health insurance coverage, we haven’t realized full mental health parity, meaning mental health service coverage is not equitable with what is covered for physical health services. This, combined with a shrinking of mental health resources, presents many barriers to mental health support. 

I often refer to myself as a “pathological optimist”. Hope runs through me – I’m not sure I could survive without it. As is true with most crises, there are silver linings. Here are a few so far:

  •  At Guild, 2020 has reaffirmed our strength and resolve. Our purpose in our community is clear and as we anticipate additional need for mental health services, we are eager to be creative and leverage our experience to be better at what we do.
  • Collectively, we have achieved leaps and bounds with our use of technology. Thanks to a grant from the F.R. Bigelow Foundation, we were able to enhance the technology our staff need to do their work remotely. As we all know, the best way to optimize new technology is by using it and 2020 has been an incredible opportunity to master it so we can connect and support each other in our work. This is a game-changer in many ways and will serve us and our clients well as we move into the future.
  • George Floyd’s murder was a wake-up call for our community. While Guild has been working on equity and inclusion for a few years, we are now understanding how critical it is for us to prioritize this work. Minnesota has the third-worst health disparities by race in the country. Intersectional identities such as gender identity, being a part of the LGBTQ+ community, and disabilities – such as mental illness – make disparities in our state even worse. We are facing the reality that our systems- built with the intention of supporting everyone in our community – simply don’t. We are renewing our commitment to change this.
  • This year has reminded us to lean on our community for support. From our partnerships with other providers and local government to our donors, we are all in this together. The opening of our new Scott County Crisis and Recovery Center is a testament to the power of partnerships.

I have hope. We will be together again. In the meantime, take care of yourself, your friends, and family – and from the bottom of our hearts – thank you for your support.