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    When Did Compromise Become a Bad Word?

    By Brett Andrews–

    This most recent election cycle reminds me of the value of compromise. This most important exercise of give and take, push and pull, and learning and sharing requires acknowledging that other points of view, even if you don’t agree, are valid too. Compromise also builds accountability, likely the most critical element for making real progress.

    We now have a duly elected Mayor, with a full term of service ahead to strengthen San Francisco. Our City passed the largest affordable housing bond in our history, with a full court of sponsors at the Board of Supervisors, signaling a fundamental and shared focus on housing affordability to the future of our City. We have newly elected officials in a variety of offices who are ready to serve.

    But I posit the strongest harbinger of progress was the compromise bringing Mental Health SF’s critical reforms into a shared legislative process. Let’s allow this to set a new standard for City leadership: principles aligned with politics. Working together, elected and appointed officials, and community and constituent representatives, have the opportunity to make fundamental changes to access, delivery, and accountability in San Francisco’s system of mental health care.

    Joining together in the legislative process will enable course corrections as we learn what improvements and expansions mean on the ground for those they are meant to help, what externalities weren’t foreseen, and the new needs that will most certainly arise. Needs and solutions cannot be static, and the City should feel optimistic with the direction of change. I know I do.

    Our political system of representation and checks and balances is not meant to foment conflict but to represent multiple points of view at the decision-making table. To make change, you can’t sit at opposite sides and yell at each other or ignore the priorities of others. Generally, your needs are not the only ones that need to be met. 

    You learn rather quickly in the transformational day-to-day work of human services that one idea or solution is insufficient. We need an array of ideas, supports, or opportunities to meet the varied needs of the health-challenged, low income, and homeless adults and families struggling to survive and fight their way out of poverty in San Francisco and beyond. At PRC, we know that the 50+ partners we work with regularly have unique skills, strengths, and diverse perspectives we need at the table to build a thriving San Francisco.

    Only together, pushing and pulling out the commonalities among priorities and the nuances of goal differences, will we ask and answer the strategic questions essential to solving our City’s problems and making lasting change. How can we best move forward to meet the needs of those we are purposed to serve? How can we transform the conditions that surround individuals’ decision making so that they can decide for themselves to make choices or take actions that improve their health, their wellness, and their lives? What opportunities do we put into place? What systems are standing in the way?

    In San Francisco and at PRC, we’re addressing deeply-rooted problems: housing, mental health, substance use, chronic health conditions. None exist in isolation, and as we continue—politically and practically—to address and prioritize their interconnections, we will build resilience in our City and across communities.

    Leading PRC since 2003, Brett Andrews has overseen PRC’s evolution from a small HIV/AIDS legal service agency to an integrated social and behavioral health provider bent on fighting poverty, stigma and isolation by uplifting marginalized adults and affecting the social conditions of health. He holds an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from George Washington University, received the San Francisco Pride Celebration’s Heritage Award for 10+ years of service in 2017, and was appointed to the San Francisco Mayor’s Methamphetamine Task Force.

    Published on December 5, 2019