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Groundhog's Day

Tomorrow marks an important day for the groundhog…see his shadow, and it’s six more weeks of winter.  If not, spring comes early.


Many people remember the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray.  For those familiar with it, the Sonny & Cher tune “I Got You, Babe” probably came to mind.  In the movie, each morning, he wakes up repeatedly on February 2nd with Sonny & Cher on his alarm radio (there’s an antiquated notion!).


For many of us, we probably sometimes feel stuck in a “Groundhog Day”, repeating familiar routines, applying traditional remedies, and seemingly stuck in an endless loop.  Someone once stated “the definition of insanity is trying the same things and expecting different results.”


I think we can see this to some extent in every community, even here.  As I sit and write this, the $40,000,000+ jail expansion continues outside my office window.  Did you know every $1 invested in mental health services saves $10 over time?  Karen Burning articulated it well in her letter to the editor (Pantagraph) earlier this week.


However, oftentimes, we wait until there’s a crisis before taking action.  Imagine what might have happened if in the mid-2000’s, we’d decided as a community to invest $5,000,000 in supporting mental health services and providers.  It takes courage to suggest a solution that doesn’t produce an immediate return or seem “sexy”.  I can’t say with certainty that it would have prevented the need for the expansion.  Hindsight at least suggests that it may not have been needed now, but I would ask “would we have had the patience to stick with it then?”


In the health and human services sector, this can be a real tightrope for myself and my colleagues.  Invest in something that will provide an immediate result or invest in longer-term, systemic changes that may prevent something from happening to begin with?


Bill Murray initially went for the first strategy, and it provided some short-term benefit.  But he didn’t get the girl (Andie MacDowell) until he made a longer-term investment in himself as a person.  The screenwriters have suggested that he repeated the same day somewhere between 10 years and a lifetime.  Can you imagine??!!


We don’t have the benefit (or curse depending on your perspective) of reliving the same day over and over again until we get it right.  Difficult decisions are made every day in our profession, some that may not always yield an immediately identifiable positive outcome.  Without the right circumstances, real systemic investments and change may not be given enough time to succeed.


Bill spent years in the movie getting it right.  Amazon lost money every year for nearly a decade before they got it right.

We don’t always get it right in our work, and it may take longer than some people expect.  But we’re dedicated to breaking the “Groundhog Day” cycle and helping our community reach its full potential.


Happy Groundhog Day!!