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As the CEO of Grafton Integrated Health Network, I speak for more than 800 behavioral healthcare employees, and we share in our nation’s despair after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Our hearts and prayers go out to the families of the victims.

Beyond this tragedy, we worry that the fear engendered by this event may feed existing stigma –– already a barrier to care for many who need it most.

Without timely help, hopelessness prevails. You can feel that sentiment most acutely in the blog making the social media rounds entitled, “I am the parent of Adam Lanza.”

The mother’s palpable sense of terror and powerlessness can be found in every line. Sadly, we’ve heard that story many, many times before. As practitioners however, our shock and grief is mediated by our intense resolve to provide solutions.

What we know from our work year in and year out is that people inherently want to do well, and those with disabilities are no exception.

It is our responsibility to figure out why they are struggling and teach the skills necessary for success. With empirically based intervention they do better, be it in the form of applied behavioral analysis, cognitive-behavioral techniques, positive behavior supports, structured family intervention, or trauma-informed approaches (among others). It is crucial that consumers have access to the right level of care at the right time –– including the appropriate use of residential treatment.

I am asking you directly as citizens to take the time to learn about the behavioral health care service system in your community. I am proud of what Grafton does, but alone it is not enough. There is shocking lack of crisis services, a striking focus upon ”reduced length o f stay” by funding sources, and a fractured delivery system that often seems to reward everything but what should be the goal: positive lasting outcomes. Take the time to know the system, and lend your expertise where possible. This investment of time, money and energy will go a long way to heal our country.

James G. Gaynor II

President and CEO of Grafton Integrated Health