By Kelly Firesheets, PsyD, VP Cordata Community

Since George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minnesota last month there has been a lot of important dialogue about the role of law enforcement in America. It’s long overdue. No one should die because of the color of their skin, but it’s particularly egregious that people die in the hands of those who are charged to protect and serve. As a country, we should not tolerate systems and structures that perpetuate racism and inequality. Hard stop. We have now defined a problem. The question is how to solve it.

What, you may ask yourself, does this have to do with us? Well, it turns out a lot.

This is a challenge for all of us.

You may be familiar with Cordata’s work in healthcare. We support patients with complex chronic conditions by giving their providers a platform to monitor and coordinate care. What you may not realize is that we also do work to support community interventions for addiction– a complex, biopsychosocial condition. Due to the nature of their disease, people with addiction tend to get lost in the uncharted territory that is the intersection between public health, law enforcement, and social services. There is no single system that “owns” services for addiction. In fact, many of our systems still go out of their way to avoid dealing with people who are struggling with active addiction. As a result, society does not manage this disease like a chronic condition. We manage it like it is a social problem. It will be no surprise to you to learn that at Cordata, we believe that solving social problems requires good data and informed decision making. And I suppose we could talk about that. But solving social problems requires so much more. We have learned that managing social problems requires creativity and partnership. It requires an orientation toward action, and a tolerance for risk. It requires accountability balanced with an appreciation of complexity. It requires that each partner step beyond loyalty to her own system and come to the table in the interest of a shared goal (a clearly defined and operationalized goal, of course!). But most importantly, managing social problems requires our humanity. We can have all the evidence-based interventions in the world, but to solve social problems, we must learn to see one another as human and to care about one another.

Americans are taking a new look at the intersection of public health, law enforcement, and social services. Some of us have been standing in the intersection for a while, and others are seeing it for the first time. Everyone, there will be challenged to examine their role, and we are asking one another hard questions. This isn’t unhealthy, this isn’t a “phase,” and it isn’t a  distraction. As social problem solvers, it’s something we will embrace.

First, with humanity and compassion, and then with data.