Four Things You Can Do That Matter…

There have been several local news stories recently about the struggle that non-profit organizations are facing. Last Saturday’s Savannah Morning News headline read: Christmas Cheer hits hard times; local non profits are feeling economic pinch this year.


There has also been a lot in the news recently about local community mental health services falling apart and some coverage about the state of Georgia giving private profit- making companies contracts to provide mental health “care” throughout the state. This is called “privatization” by its proponents. It should be called “profitization.” We already know how it works because the great majority of nursing home in Georgia are profit-making businesses that draw the great majority of their income from federal/state Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements.


We share these examples, which are part of a much larger and predictable reality about human services, simply to suggest five things that citizen advocates can do to offer protection and advocacy.


  1. As human service system-based resources become even less available than usual, it becomes more important for you to be thinking about how to build community and connection among your family, friends, and associates. As the world of rules, regulations, and reimbursements becomes ever more perverse and self serving, the world of relationships, positive regard, and responsibility between people must grow and strengthen. Your protégé simply has to become part of a network of active citizens. Your network.
  2. Look for ways to be more radically inclusive. Inviting your protégé to go with you to your church or synagogue’s holiday service would be an example of this. This makes a huge statement to everyone you consider a friend in faith. It sets the stage to invite anyone and everyone who witnessed this simple but radical act of inclusion to make a choice. Some people will be flustered and afraid by the presence of “the stranger.” They will retreat to the comfort of theoretical theology. Others will want to express welcome and solidarity. Build on this.
  3. People can be groomed to become active allies for you and your protégé in the harder times that are coming. From hard times come strong people. Many of the people we call protégés are quite expert at surviving and thriving during hard times. There will be important benefits for ALL who form a circle of warmth, concern, and action.
  4. Take a look at the ways your protégé does depend on governmental support and the work of public and private human service agencies. If these services stop, what will happen next? What do elected officials and agency planners say is “Plan B”? What sort of Plan B are you thinking about for your protégé? Even if what people currently count on is not very good, it’s what they have come to count on. When it’s changed or ended, what happens next is likely to be even worse. There are people in Savannah who are interested in helping citizen advocates individually and collectively question and challenge the public policy that impacts your protégé’s life. Call Tom at 236-5798 if you want to get linked up with someone who can help you and your protégé look at the public policy that strongly influences your protégé’s life.

Times of crisis – real and perceived – are times of change. Investing in building broader and deeper personal connections and relationships and in studying and challenging public policy are things that we can do to try to keep the worst from happening and to encourage the best that possibly can to happen.


It’s not time to retreat. Its time to strengthen connections, elevate and radicalize the conversation, and keep remembering that we protect who and what we love, and that love brings hope.

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