We Can and Must Be Better

With 2015 coming to an end and the days of 2016 yet to unfold I wonder what lies ahead. We have much to look forward to and I am cognizant of how fortunate we are in San Mateo County with the resources we have and the support from our elected officials, sister county departments, providers, and the general community. However, despite these advantages, I am greatly concerned about the seemingly endless string of senseless acts of mass murder that unthinkably is becoming our “new normal” that struck again in Paris and a few short weeks ago in San Bernardino. What differentiates the San Bernardino tragedy from the others is that the victims were our colleagues…fellow County employees, public servants. Our hearts, thoughts and prayers go to their families, friends and to their co-workers who will return to work with pain in their hearts but who will continue to devote themselves to helping others. I have extended our support to my counterpart and our colleagues in San Bernardino on behalf of our BHRS staff.

If the carnage and loss of life were not enough, these tragic events and horrific killings has precipitated a storm of vitriolic declarations, whipped up simmering prejudices and initiated calls for drastic measures in clear violation of our country’s constitutional principles and guarantees. Scapegoating, targeting, isolating, and demonizing a single group of people, in this case people of Muslim faith regardless of whether they are an American citizen or not is reprehensible. Throughout history there are countless examples, Nazi Germany, South African apartheid, slavery in this country to name a few, of how this type of overt hostility travels a dangerous and slippery slope. It is appalling and disheartening that this is happening now in this country when tolerance and understanding is what is needed.

I send this message to you, my BHRS colleagues and to our stakeholders that as an organization and as individuals committed to public service and to the public good, we need to and will uphold our values honoring and respecting everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. We have an ethical responsibility that we will uphold to be vigilant against any erosion of these values as we continue our work in these troublesome times. We will ensure that each and every one of our BHRS colleagues feels welcome and supportive in the workplace. And we must apply the same sensitivity and support to our clients and family members, as this might be a particularly difficult and confusing time for them.

I have great regard for you my BHRS colleagues and our providers and the ethics and values you bring to work every day. I am confident that individually and collectively we will demonstrate humility, inclusion and commitment to social justice for everyone.

– Steve Kaplan, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services Director