Looking Back on a Momentous Year

In 2015, Rushford enthusiastically celebrated its 40th anniversary, looking back proudly and fondly on its pioneering role in bringing substance abuse and mental health services to Connecticut.

But seemingly before the last celebratory balloon and piece of cake were cleared away, the organization boldly embarked on a new era of leadership and increased visibility and stature within behavioral health circles, within Hartford HealthCare and throughout the state and the nation. These efforts were all in the name of helping our clients, and every moment truly mattered along the way.

And speaking of moments, 2015 and 2016 would propel Rushford to one of its most important moments yet — a moment in the spotlight.

As people became increasingly aware of the horrendous toll that the opioid and heroin epidemic was taking at all levels of society, Rushford was looked to more and more for guidance, leadership and expertise. The devastation surrounding the issue has been felt in every corner of Connecticut and beyond (as of mid-2016, the state was on track to lose more than 800 of its citizens to accidental drug overdoses – a record).

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 firsthand that this is a disease every bit as chronic and symptomatic as cancer or heart disease, and needs to treated accordingly with comprehensive, evidence-based care.

In the process, the public has come to see the value of behavioral health centers like Rushford, and the work we do to help our patients embark on a path of recovery, and stay there. As the epidemic began to dominate headlines in late 2015 and throughout 2016, Rushford experts took the lead in educating the public about the factors contributing to the epidemic – social, biological and otherwise – and the best way to prevent it or treat it.

Rushford leaders took part in countless community education forums large and small, from Greenwich to Willimantic. 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.

Rushford and its partner entities within the Behavioral Health Network 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 locations across the state where people could go for effective treatment. The staff of highly accomplished addiction medicine specialists, led by Medical Director J. Craig Allen, MD, earned widespread accolades and praise for their work in explaining and treating the biological impact that substance abuse has on the brain.

The organization’s stature also continued to grow within Hartford HealthCare, as it dramatically turned around its financial fortunes and reversed several years of setbacks. Two years after reporting a loss of more than $2 million, the organization was on track to finish the end of Fiscal Year 2016 by reporting a net profit, with projections for substantial gains in the following year.

What’s more, over the past year Rushford has significantly expanded its range of programs for mental health and prevention services. Under the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, Rushford’s Paddock Avenue location in Meriden is designated as a Local Mental Health Authority, making it the prime resource for therapeutic programs and crisis intervention services in the area. To uphold that designation, we have grown our Behavioral Health Home program to help those with mental health issues receive the care and support they need to main an independent lifestyle. And our prevention programs are interwoven throughout the communities we serve, providing education to schools, youth organizations and other important community groups.

All of this is occurring in a healthcare landscape that grows more challenging by the day, which is why the success that Rushford 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.


Patricia Rehmer

President, Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network
Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare