As we began planning this issue, which is our third annual Executive Forecast report, we had reason to believe this year's version might take on a gloomier tone than the two before it. Certainly every business is experiencing some effect from the prolonged economic downturn, even if in some regions of the country the impact still has been felt more on the psyche than on the bottom line at this point.
Yet what we have seen in our recent discussions with treatment leaders reflects an optimism and resolve in the face of crisis. Managers are being proactive and are looking for ways to learn from one another's successes and failures. Some treatment centers are already benefiting from past actions such as conservative budgeting in anticipation of an economic slowdown. Still others are remembering to take a long-range view, knowing that fortunes will reverse and that they want to be ready when the turnaround occurs.
As one treatment professional stated to us in a recent e-mail, “There is never a good time to do a lot of things, from strictly an economic standpoint. I think we have to trust God and continue to fulfill our mission of providing solutions to those with chemical dependencies.”
There appear to be other reasons why optimism has surfaced amid the negative headlines. This is a field that knows it never will have much handed to it, even in comparatively good times nationally. So it makes its peace with having to overcome odds, even when it takes the disproportionately harsh beating it experienced more than a decade ago with the explosive growth of managed care.
And while the national economic news has been mostly bad this past year, the field can boast of a much rosier outcome in the national policy arena. Significant victories occurred on Capitol Hill with adoption of the Second Chance Act and especially with comprehensive parity legislation. The latter outcome illustrated what the addiction treatment and recovery communities can help to accomplish when they are organized and committed, and most importantly when they receive (or seize, depending on one's interpretation) a seat at the table as true partners in healthcare.
Finally, the election of a new President seemed to energize many of the field's leaders at year's end, even if they could not specify expectations much beyond a notion that change is coming. Certainly the field has reason to hope that Barack Obama's ideas for investing in communities will include a new vision for assisting the most vulnerable citizens that communities serve—citizens who have shown they can also become among the most productive.
We hope that you benefit from the topics presented in this special issue, and that they create meaningful dialogue in your organizations. Because management and leadership issues have become increasingly important even for clinical professionals in this field, we will launch with our January/February 2009 issue a regular column on management topics. Look for Seabrook House executive director Ed Diehl's perspectives as our first installment of this new department.
We offer our best wishes that in 2009, you and your colleagues can maintain hope for the future—and more importantly, that you build on that hope in the present.
Gary A. Enos, Editor Addiction Professional 2008 December;6(7):6