Henry Ford once said, "The only change that people really like is the coins that jingle in their pockets." Given the fact that most people have a natural tendency to maintain the status quo, I have been struck by the level of enthusiasm and willingness to embrace change that greets the new administration in Washington, D.C. I have lived through several transitions to new leadership throughout my career and I have always found them to be bittersweet; laden with both anxiety and enthusiasm. People develop personal relationships and attain a comfort level when they spend four or eight years working together. Even when they disagree on critical issues, it can be difficult to say goodbye on a personal level. On the other hand, there is a level of excitement associated with the prospects of a fresh start.
Notwithstanding such enthusiasm and anxiety, this transition feels different. The difference was reflected in the work that occurred at the December APHSA Policy Summit in Nashville. The overwhelming sentiment was that the federal and state working relationship has deteriorated to the point that it has severely compromised trust and communication, and change is necessary. I have never witnessed the degree of urgency and sense of purpose displayed at the summit in more than 30 years of attending APHSA meetings. For two and one half days, the nation's health and human service leaders rolled up their shirtsleeves and dug into serious policy and operational discussions on critical issues. While there are always nuances, consensus on major points was remarkably easy to obtain and the work was completed several hours earlier than anticipated. Everybody agreed that the system needs to be fixed.
Like the transition in Washington, the Nashville summit felt different. It included a more diverse array of state, local and affiliate leaders than in previous years, and their collective assessment confirmed the seriousness of the task at hand. Their efforts led to a major change in strategy that culminated in the development of a 30-day plan of action designed to bring instant relief to state and local health and human service departments. In addition, leaders finalized and adopted "Focal Point," the transition blueprint that is included with this issue of Policy & Practice.
To date, APHSA has had several opportunities to meet with members of the Obama Health and Human Services Transition Teams, and our documents have been very well...