In the Car When It Happened: A Brief Reflection on the Inaugural QI Partnership Live Event

By: Natasha Bermudez, M.S.Ed

Mental Health Provider

Drving home with a sunset in the background
The Ruminative Drive

So, it was in the car that the inaugural eQIP live event was brought to my attention. With skepticism, I tuned in to the discussion between Dr. April Fernando from the TCOM community and Dr. Christopher Bellonci, the Assistant Medical Professor at Harvard Medical School and Senior Policy Advisor at The Baker Center for Children in Boston. My skepticism was not about the interview that had not yet started, but instead it was about the realization that I was dramatically shifting my listening preference away from mindless podcasts, woke news, and ratchet radio to something more meaningful which I was certain would encroach upon my typical commuters’ brain and illustrate who I truly am.

I hypothesized that I would generally be bored by the conversation but that I might also learn something new in the process. As I drove southbound down a blissfully scenic stretch of interstate 87 in the foothills of upstate New York, I turned up the volume to listen more intently to Dr. Bellonci describe his experience with being in the room when FFPSA legislation happened. I can reflect upon it now and demonstrate two things for certain…

1 – I am admittedly a sucker for listening to someone share the “tea”. The idea of exclusive details about seemly classified/privileged information, persons, or situations is the very basis of the “housewife” reality shows that I deny being aware of but secretly watch!

2 – That any clever reference to my native brother and Latin born, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s work, particularly the smash hit on Broadway, Hamilton, will always justifiably earn my attention.  

During the first 5 minutes of the discussion Dr. Fernando was able to level set with viewers and establish a thoroughfare for the discussion. Dr. Fernando demonstrated a clear understanding of the legislation for the audience and provided context for the concerns that orbit FFPSA. About 15-20 minutes into the conversation I understood that my original hypothesis about the potential for boredom was being disproved. Dr. Fernando asked a series of thoughtful questions that allowed Dr. Bellonci to provide detailed insights and responses. They played off of each other well and it was clear that Dr. Bellonci was very knowledgeable about children’s services and needs, his responses were very down to earth and relatable as well. This was clearly not his first rodeo.

Another notable takeaway from this experience was the conversational waltz between the basic concepts and the topics that were very technical in nature, such as the difference between PRTF vs. QRTP. I didn’t mind being spared the comparative analysis there. As a result of industry culture in my neck of the woods, this back and forth discussion format allowed me to better understand the intent of Family First legislation. The structure, coupled with the questions that scrolled across the bottom of the screen modeled how I might talk about this with my colleagues. At one point the interview paused momentarily for a commercial about the new eQIP initiative. This commercial break and the interview reset that ensued thereafter were helpful. They reminded me of the segment recaps on Good Morning America, which I watch religiously. The short “viewer manageable” segments were concise and informative.

watching the sunset through the side mirror of a car
It’s hard to know where we are going, until we look in the mirror and reflect on where we’ve been.

As my children decimated every remaining edible thing in the vicinity of their booster seats, I recall hearing the single greatest point of resonation during this interview. Which was that far too often children have to “fail up” to the appropriate level of care. This concept reverberates throughout my 20 years of experience with children’s services within the state of New York. In my career, I have witnessed the system frequently require demonstration that a youth/family has not or cannot be successful before a service or service referral to address the identified need is granted. I agree with Dr. Bellonci’s notion that this approach has the propensity to create or recreate trauma. I subscribe to the plausibility that for youth and families, there is great potential that this dynamic will cultivate negative relationships with a system that is ironically charged with the task of producing positive relationships and outcomes. The system is supposed to be there to help not hinder, it’s intent is to build connections not extinguish them. This strengthened for me the critical importance of the QI role.

It was at this point that not only had I arrived at my destination in what seemed like a blink of an eye, but I also shed a few tears behind the steering wheel, for I knew that this powerful conversation was ending soon. I parked the car, depressed the child safety locks, and knew instantly that I had a handful of valuable takeaways, which I cannot say about some of the podcasts that I’ve explored. One new jewel was that I was aware that I can drive my children to grandma’s house in the “kiddo-commuter” and not have to solely rely on Starbucks, left over fundraiser chocolate, and podcasts like Only Murders In The Building to get them there sanely and safely. Ironically for me, the car is typically a place that will allow me to tune out and forget about all of life’s noise. Dr. Fernando and Dr. Bellonci made a listener and a believer out of me. More specifically, a renewed believer in the power of mindful and meaningful conversation within my work context. At the very least, the inaugural eQIP live event showed me that even a brief commute can become a really powerful place of reflection on my experiences. A place to cement ownership for my career goals and professional passions and for that lesson alone, I’m incredibly happy that I was in the car when it happened! Thank you’s are extended to Dr. Fernando and Dr. Bellonci.

What were your impressions of this first live event? Do your reflections mirror or contradict any of mine? Any positive or negative takeaways for you? Any other suggestions for more content like this?

Natasha Bermudez, M.S.Ed (she/her)
Natasha Bermudez, M.S.Ed (she/her)

Natasha Bermudez, M.S.Ed (she/her) is a Mental Health specialist that engages and supports executive level staff, the educational leadership teams, and teaching staff within the educational facilities around the state. Her work focuses on quality improvement of  educational facilities, enhancing the professional development of staff, and ensuring that all children that enter the psychiatric hospitals receive an educational experience and curriculum that is equal to or greater than the educational experience that they are entitled to and expect from their designated home school district. Bermudez has worked in the child serving industry for nearly two decades. She has expertise in counseling psychology and adolescent education, she earned an M.S.Ed in school counseling in the mid 2000’s. Prior to working as a high school guidance counselor, Bermudez was employed for many years by a non-profit agency as a home and community-based behavioral health individualized care coordinator. She provided children and families with support, intensive therapeutic based guidance, linkage, and rehabilitative advisement that was rooted in evidence-based practices and interventions. 

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