Transforming Our Dreams

William Greer, CEO, Journey Mental Health Center, speaks to event participants at the organization’s annual fundraiser, “A Night In Old World Milwaukee” on Saturday, April 27, 2013 at Full Compass.

“Good evening and welcome my fellow Milwaukeeans!  We are gathered in this great hall this evening to celebrate our good fortune to be residents of one of America’s great cities.  We are, indeed, blessed with a strong industrial base, a large and energetic workforce, a robust educational system and an abundance of natural resources. As we stand astride the 19th century and look ahead, our future looks bright and our prospects unlimited.”

Any Milwaukee civic leader or politician could have delivered that speech in the latter part of the 19th century.  It reflects the enthusiasm and optimism of the time and we can imagine that a cross section of the city’s native-born and immigrant populations shared these emotions. We hope that for the next few hours we can envelop you in those positive thoughts and feelings from the past and that you will take them with you tonight and into tomorrow and the days ahead.  We are sorely in need of such hope and confidence as we face the challenges of our own time.

At Journey Mental Health Center, the challenges we face are endemic to our health care system.  Although we served roughly 14,000 people last year, I still see lines out the door at our daily “Open Access” Clinic.  Although we are located in nine sites around our community, there are still many individuals for whom the main barrier to treatment is distance.  And although we provide comprehensive mental health and substance abuse services to individuals across the life span, we still see an unacceptable number of our consumers succumbing to the devastating combination of physical and mental illness.

Lack of access to services and fragmented health care serve to rob our clients of hope and to render their dreams null and void.  One of my favorite poets, Edgar Allen Poe, wrote these lines,

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night or in a day

In a vision or in none

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream

At Journey, our dream is of holistic health care.  It is nested within the dream of affordable health care for the vast majority of Americans.  For the first time in my life, these dreams are not just possible but probable.  We are in avid pursuit of these dreams because our mission and vision require us to be. And because, as helping professionals, we are tired of watching the premature decline and demise of our consumers due to the consequences of birth and trauma, the crush of stigma and the loss of hope and purpose.

We have transformed our dreams into goals by developing action plans with time lines and measurable outcomes.  In the near term we will have integrated primary and behavioral health care at Journey.  In the near term we will have a state of the art electronic health record.  And in the near term we will extend our services to people who have been unable to access them before.

You have supported us so far on our journey.  And for that; on behalf of our staff, volunteers and consumers; I thank you.  If you choose to continue your support on the next passage, I promise you that the best is yet to come.  Thank you and enjoy your evening.