By Shawn Salamida, President, Lakeview Behavioral Health Services
How would you describe your job to someone who is not in your line of work?
Put simply, I build systems that support people who help others. Thousands of professionals, family members and volunteers throughout Florida have a passion for helping others, specifically people who are experiencing behavioral health challenges. Those challenges cause suffering and hardship in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. My job is to make sure the compassionate and dedicated “helpers” have the resources, direction and support needed to effectively mobilize their passion for the benefit of our communities.
How did you get started in your profession?
I have 10 bothers and sisters, seven of whom are adopted and came from difficult circumstances. At a young age I experienced firsthand what it’s like to help someone who really needed it. Such acts of compassion can literally change a person’s future. This impacted my college degree and career choice. My very first job was working as a tech at an adolescent inpatient psychiatric facility in Ohio. Later I served as a counselor in a teen group home in New York. Those jobs weren’t always easy, but in both roles I ultimately learned that one caring adult can have an immense impact on a young person’s life. For example, recently I was contacted by a now 39-year-old who once lived in the group home where I worked, some 25 years after I last saw him. He wanted me to know what an impact I and other staff had on his life. It was a memorable discussion to say the least, and a reminder to me that we don’t just help people now, we help them for their future.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
Resources and prioritization. In my opinion, Florida does more good with less resources than anywhere in the country, and yet the demand continues to rise. This puts us in a position of having to prioritize where the resources go, which often are needed in deep end care as opposed to early intervention. Changing that trend is a big challenge, but I believe it is possible and there is the will to do it.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job is seeing my team members succeed in delivering positive outcomes to those we serve. As I said earlier, my job is to enable my people to fulfill their passion and have a positive impact on others. Their success is my reward, and the proof is in improved individual and community outcomes.
What is your hope for the future of health care in Florida?
My hope is that Florida’s health care system capitalizes on what science reveals about early brain development, infant attachment, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). We must focus on treating acute issues, but concurrently should be preventing the acute by mitigating contributing childhood factors. This will involve supporting effective parenting, which is not typically thought of as a health care intervention. But science now tells us it most certainly is.
What are your favorite hobbies?
I love NASCAR, and my wife and I attend two to three races every year. We also are a camping family. We enjoy taking the camper to visit our adult kids and two grandchildren, or visiting the beautiful state parks in Florida. I am a die-hard Steelers fan, and I like grilling too — although I’m still working on my grilling skills.