From DHW Director Dave Jeppesen: Reflecting on lessons learned in times of crisis

December 8, 2023
DHW Director Dave Jeppesen

Working at the Department of Health and Welfare (DHW) has been the highest honor of my career, and it’s also been the most challenging job I’ve ever had. That’s in part due to the dynamic range of daily tasks that come up. With eight divisions and 3,000 staff, we maintain countless systems to foster accountability and plan for the future, but almost every week at DHW is a reminder that you can’t plan for everything.  Staying nimble is part of the job.

It is in these times when we face unforeseen obstacles that we often discover profound lessons that shape our resilience and character. Over the past five years, the Department of Health and Welfare has faced a diverse range of challenges, prompting our staff to adjust, reprioritize, and forge ahead. In reflecting on the turbulent times, several invaluable lessons emerge.

  • First and foremost, crisis underscores the importance of adaptability. The ability to pivot, adjust, and find innovative solutions is an invaluable skill in times of upheaval.
  • Adapting to rapidly changing circumstances allows us to weather storms and emerge stronger on the other side.
  • The resilience cultivated through adaptability helps us understand that even during challenging times, there is always room for growth.
  • Crisis highlights the power of community and compassion. Whether on a global scale or within local communities, the outpouring of support and empathy in times of crisis is a testament to the strength found in togetherness. 
  • The more extensive the crisis, the more collaboration needed by stakeholders to mitigate and respond.  By collaboratively working together, we can reach unforeseen heights beyond our individual reach.
  • Last, and importantly, every emergency is an opportunity to be better prepared the next time unforeseen circumstances unfold. While it may be impossible to predict the exact nature of the next day’s or week’s work, having robust systems in place to respond efficiently and effectively is crucial.

In times of crisis, the value of community and interconnectedness becomes evident. The realization that we are all interconnected in the intricate web of life underscores the importance of fostering relationships, supporting one another, and cultivating a sense of shared responsibility.

I sincerely hope we won’t have to weather another child welfare emergency, pandemic, or recession, but by reflecting on the lessons we’ve learned, I know DHW will be better prepared if those circumstances come to pass.

Through adaptability, community, and preparedness, we can not only endure the challenges to come but also emerge wiser, stronger, and more compassionate.

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