Looking Back on a Momentous Year
It’s hard to believe that a little over a year ago, I had just joined Natchaug Hospital and the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network (BHN).
I cannot thank all of you enough for helping to make the transition as smooth as it was and for readily welcoming me into the Natchaug family.
The past year has been busy to say the least – with new challenges and opportunities arising almost daily – but this Annual Report has given me an opportunity to pause and reflect on what a momentous year it was for Natchaug Hospital.
In 2015 and 2016, the heroin and opioid epidemic and the deadly toll of addiction captured the headlines and people’s attention in Connecticut and across the nation. And for good reason – by mid-2016, Connecticut alone was on track to lose more than 800 of its citizens to accidental drug overdoses.
The only bright side to this kind of public health crisis is the way it has helped begin to change longstanding beliefs about substance abuse and those who suffer from it, although discrimination remains a huge problem. If you know and love someone who has experienced an addiction issue, it’s harder to condemn them as weak in character or somehow flawed as people – you see first-hand that this is a disease every bit as chronic and symptomatic as cancer or heart disease, and needs to be treated accordingly with comprehensive, evidence-based care.
As people became increasingly aware of the horrendous toll that the opioid and heroin epidemic was taking at all levels of society, Natchaug and the BHN were looked to more than ever for guidance, leadership and expertise.
Leaders from Natchaug took part in countless community education forums large and small, all across Connecticut. They appeared in local and national media, providing their insights and furthering our ability to both educate the public and help break down the fear and unwillingness that addiction sufferers often feel before deciding to seek help.
Natchaug and its partner entities within the BHN continued to take the lead on the issue by launching MATCH™, or Medication-Assisted Treatment Close to Home, a campaign meant to educate the public about the numerous Natchaug and Rushford locations across the state where people could go for effective treatment. And to meet the increasing need for MATCH, Natchaug expanded three of its existing treatment centers so that more people could receive treatment.
Although addiction was in the spotlight, Natchaug also continued to grow its continuum of mental health services. In response to a growing elderly population in the greater Willimantic area, Natchaug teamed with Windham Hospital and Hartford HealthCare Senior Services to create the Older Adult Program at the Center for Healthy Aging at Windham Hospital, offering mental health and addiction treatment catered to the needs of seniors.
We also continue to expand our primary care/behavioral health program, which is allowing us to embed mental health clinicians in primary care offices, an initiative that has broken down silos and had demonstrated success in terms of patient outcomes.
All of this is occurring in a healthcare landscape that grows more challenging by the day, which is why the success that Natchaug is having is so gratifying, and so deserving of acknowledgement. There is still much work to do to continue expanding the programs we offer clients and enhancing our status as a center of excellence in behavioral health, but those moments will come, too. For now, we will enjoy our moment in the spotlight by keeping the focus where it belongs – on the people we serve. Thank you to everyone, from the front lines to the board room, for all you do.