Reflections from Daniel H. Gillison, Jr., CEO of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)
The CEO Alliance for Mental Health — a group directed by chief executives from the nation’s leading mental health and substance use organizations — gathered together in-person for the first time ever this month in Napa Valley, CA.
It was a time to connect and recharge. Being surrounded by nature under the sunny skies of northern California was a refreshing change of pace for many of us who traveled from major cities across the country. But it was also an opportunity to reflect on why we joined forces in the first place, and to continue planning our future work together.
After all, what the people out in Napa Valley know is that quality can often best be determined under pressure — the true test of how well you have grown your grapes is ultimately measured by what comes out when they are pressed. And what’s true for grapes is also true for life, true for leadership, and true for our “systems” of care.
In 2020, when our “systems” were pressed by fear, uncertainty, and doubt — the true gaps and fragments in our ways of doing things became more apparent than ever before. We are continuing to feel the repercussions. Over the last few years, we have seen mental health grow into a global conversation of critical importance, and people have been seeking out resources and services in our field like never before.
As leaders, we’ve also been tested. We’ve also been pressed by the many challenges of the last few years. And during this pivotal time we were each faced with a choice: we could either further divide or further connect.
Connection is always better. It’s like that great African proverb says — “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” I’m proud to be able to say that each of us in the CEO Alliance has chosen to go further together.
Through our unified vision and shared resources, we have already been able to move the needle on so many important topics — increasing public awareness on important policy initiatives, creating clear calls to action in op-eds and statements, developing campaigns and comprehensive roadmaps for reimagining our country’s approach to crisis response leading up to and after the official national activation of 988, and so much more.
We are making a difference, and we are just getting started.
We can do so much more together than we can alone. And change must always start from the top. That’s why we started this alliance, and that’s why we intend to keep our alliance strong.
I’m proud to be able to report that what has come out of the pressing challenges of the last few years has been innovation and collaboration through this group. I’m grateful for my colleagues’ leadership, tone, execution and sincere passion for the most vulnerable populations affected by the disparities of care that exist within our current methods of mental health and substance use treatment. And I’m excited to see all of the progress we will continue to make together towards the world we all want to see: where ALL people are able to thrive and live meaningful, healthy and productive lives.