San Bernardino, Calif., Roseburg, Ore., Colorado Springs, Colo., Chattanooga, Tenn., Charleston, S.C., Lafayette, La. — events in small towns and big cities alike have seared the public’s minds with unforgettable images of violence. We watched this year with horror and indignation at those images, but we also watched with pride at medical staff providing emergency care … at how the women and men of America’s hospitals responded selflessly — as they always do — in caring for patients under the most challenging conditions.

America’s hospitals work every day to keep our nation safe. We prepare for the expected and the unthinkable. Unfortunately, as one hospital leader who was on the front lines of care in the most recent incident shared with me last week, hospitals and health systems now are facing a “new normal” for necessary readiness, as well as maintaining a safe environment for staff, patients and their families. 

No one wants this new reality, but we will not refrain from tackling these new challenges head on. Some of these unfortunate events have put a greater focus on the need for better access to appropriate behavioral health care services, which hospitals are keenly aware of. We agree with those who have called for a renewed effort on enhancing needed behavioral health screenings and funding. Hospitals work with a wide range of community stakeholders, including social services agencies, public health departments, religious groups, educational organizations and law enforcement agencies to collaboratively foster healthy behaviors

Today’s new realities may require hospitals to redouble our efforts to be prepared. Whether that is working with community partners to offer youth and domestic abuse counseling programs and better behavioral health care services in a variety of settings and through a variety of channels – from emergency medical or mental health services, treatment and counseling programs to staffing 24-hour crisis lines — or reviewing the notice from the departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services to help recognize and report potential suspicious activity and strengthen response plans, America’s hospitals will be there, ready to care. Always.