Rushford Turns the Corner Financially

Through a disciplined and carefully thought-out approach to care, Rushford reported a fiscal year 2016 positive margin of several hundred thousand dollars — the first time the organization was in the black in at least several years.

Led by Steven Zuckerman, Rushford’s vice president of operations, the organization – from frontline staff to senior leadership – was able to dramatically reverse its financial fortunes by refocusing on its core services and creating a culture that emphasizes data and demonstrated need to guide decision-making.

When Zuckerman arrived in late 2013, Rushford had just recorded a fiscal year loss of more than $2.5 million. He and other members of the HHC BHN senior leadership team immediately went to work on the organization’s financial health and securing its long-term future. They engaged frontline staff in the process and even more opportunities were identified.

Zuckerman said the turnaround essentially focused on:

  • Returning the focus of the organization to its core services: residential substance abuse treatment, detoxification services, and ambulatory programs such as partial hospital, intensive outpatient, and outpatient programs.
  • Creating a culture in which decisions are carefully made based on data, efficacy-based models, and other objective measures to show how it will fill a need or bring a benefit.
  • Expanding outpatient locations and resources to other communities beyond the main service areas surrounding Middletown and Meriden to help attract a more diverse payer mix.
  • Resource management, particularly in the area of staffing, built upon a standardized model of productivity, that captures when a clinical staff person is necessary, rather than just because it’s in someone’s budget.
  • Understanding Rushford’s reputation for substance abuse treatment, and rebranding it to become the standard bearer not only within HHC, but building the organization up as a center of excellence within the state for such care and treatment. This was done through community forums, media outreach (TV, radio, newspapers) and a targeted marketing campaign for MATCH (Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home).
  • Holding ourselves accountable, while also creating a culture that rewards those who produce results, by giving them the opportunity to advance. Among current leadership, 67% are the result of internal promotions.

The changes in focus and culture have played a key role in transforming Rushford, and improved its ability to continue meeting the needs of clients and patients. The change has also captured the attention of others within Hartford HealthCare (HHC) — Rushford leaders have been asked to create a list of principles that helped guide the turnaround to be shared with other HHC entities.


“Now we are being looked at as a model for sustainability, and that’s a good thing for the people we care for at Rushford,” he said.