Reflection Season

Posted by: Peter Long, Ph.D.

This summer marks five years since I first stepped into my role as president and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation. At the time, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was just being signed into law, “patient engagement” was an abstract concept, and physical and behavioral healthcare remained comfortably bifurcated.  That was 2010.

Today, the implementation and ongoing success of the ACA has resulted in nearly 17 million people now enrolled in healthcare coverage nationally, and more than 5 million newly insured in California. Beyond coverage alone, extending health insurance has also expanded access to care, with the newly insured reporting easier access to medical services than those who remain uninsured.  What’s more, the healthcare safety net is now more integrated and is innovating at a faster pace than ever before.  Community health centers are leading the way with new patient engagement strategies and care models designed around the individuals they serve. The cumulative impact of these efforts can be seen through low-income patients themselves, more than half of whom now rate the quality of their care as excellent or very good. That’s a 5 percent increase from 2011, equal to 400,000 low-income Californians.

Also five years ago, domestic violence was an unpopular and uncomfortable topic of conversation, and shelters and service providers struggled through an economic crisis that bred competition for scarce resources, instead of collaboration.

Today, domestic violence is no longer hidden from public view or discussion, and is a priority issue in the media, on college campuses, in workplaces, even in professional sports leagues. As the epidemic becomes more and more visible, domestic violence providers across the state are now more agile, connected, and empowered than ever. A participant of the Strong Field Project recently remarked that she is “more open to being part of the solution from a statewide perspective—now that I know more, I’m responsible for more and prepared to do more.” The unified strength of the field today feels a world away from the situation it faced in 2010.

Though a lot has changed over the past five years, much has stayed the same, and there is still an incredible amount of work to be done to reach our goals of health and safety for all Californians. As we continue towards this mission, I hope that everything we’ve accomplished together does not go unrecognized, and through focused reflection we find renewed energy and purpose to propel us forward.

In addition to the progress that has been made across the health care safety net and domestic violence field, I would be remiss not to mention some of the changes that have occurred inside our Foundation. Over the past five years, we have grown and developed alongside our grantees. We’ve gone from 14 staff members to 25, and have built an amazing team. We’ve also shifted our focus from simply making strong grants to achieving positive impact and transformation across the state. Our goals are more ambitious, and our strategies more innovative. Although we may look and operate differently than we did five years ago, we remain committed to partnering with our grantees, policymakers, other foundations, and non-profit leaders to make California a healthier and safer place for us all.

As I mark my fifth anniversary at the Foundation and look back on my tenure, the days have felt very long and the years very short. Where I stand today reminds me of a quote from the Velveteen Rabbit that says “Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, your eyes drop out, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” Over the past five years, my hair has turned grayer, my eyesight has gotten worse, and my joints have started to feel a little shabby in the mornings. But the challenging and critically important work that this Foundation continues to undertake with our partners every day – that is real. And it’s a beautiful gift. So I suppose those other things don’t really matter at all.

To the next five years,

Peter

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