Dr. Morgan Medlock

Dr. Morgan Medlock | Behavioral Health Commissioner

Doctors, mental health workers and policy makers can meet people where they’re at in their journey, and we need to be empathetic enough not to leave them there.

My job as the chief vision officer for the Behavioral Health Administration is to set a bold and transformative vision for the state. We are entering a new era of equitable, accountable and effective behavioral healthcare in our state. As an organization, we are people-focused. As a trained physician, I use that “do no harm” oath to bring a people-first approach to policy making.

Even a trained psychiatrist cannot be an expert in someone else’s struggles. But doctors, mental health workers and policy makers can meet people where they’re at in their journey, and we need to be empathetic enough not to leave them there. 

For many practitioners, it’s tempting to ask, “What’s wrong with you?” Instead, we need to ask people, “What history are you wrestling with?” By asking this, it allows us to provide trauma-informed care. 

The language we choose to use relates to trauma. It can evoke history and memories. It’s vital to recognize first that individuals are people. So we avoid words like “addict” and other labels that stigmatize, marginalize and evoke those painful histories. 

The right words open doors. Stigma-free language gives people hope and provides a pathway to freedom. The most important thing to say or do is to let people know they are welcome and they are seen. That person you’re trying to help trusts you with their health and future. It’s a big deal to come into a room and acknowledge that you may have challenges and needs. It’s a big deal to start medication. So the more you can make them feel safe and comfortable, the better your chances of success. 

Resources and help are available even for those struggling with substance use disorder in remote or underserved communities.