How we can build trust, connect care

Building trust and connecting care isn’t easy. This patient story shows how we do it:

A pregnant woman called 911 while in labor. By the time the paramedics arrived, she had delivered the baby, but was brought to a Hartford HealthCare hospital, where they determined she was addicted to heroin. The baby was placed in an intensive care unit to be observed for neonatal abstinence syndrome. Appropriate notifications were made. The mother was connected with Rushford services for an evaluation and immediately given a Rushford inpatient bed for treatment.

There is a lot more to this story, but the bottom line is we have to continue to build trust and connect care, both as an organization and as a health system.

In order to build trust and connect with our patients, we need to include those who have gone through recovery and overcome addiction at every level of organization, from administration to the frontlines. This was a major focus in the past year and will continue to be moving forward.

We also build trust and connect care through outreach and media appearances. Rushford staff members are consistently viewed as experts when it comes to the opioid crisis, and our many speaking engagements, internal and external training sessions, and media appearances are proof of that. Whether it was a press conference about new funding to fight addiction or training of physicians on prescribing, we are trusted for our expertise and connecting with people on a variety of levels.

These efforts, and many more, can be seen throughout this year’s annual report, with a theme of “Trusted, Connected Care.”

Throughout the year, we focused on quality, fiscal responsibility, improving the customer experience and, especially, recovery.

Ever since my arrival at the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network, I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by expertly trained, caring and compassionate staff. I want to thank our clinicians, physicians support staff and community partners for all they have done to help make the past year a success.

Here are just a few highlights:

At press time, it appears that Rushford would end the year with a positive operating margin, which is no small feat in the world of behavioral health. Rushford’s residential programs performed better than expected, and, by improving how we do our work, we were able to become more efficient and provide even better care. This is never easy, but it is crucial for the future of healthcare and especially behavioral health.

We entered into a partnership with Planet Fitness to help create a fitness center at our Middletown location. The gym, which is on the third floor, is our way of incorporating exercise into recovery. In addition, when patients successfully complete their inpatient stay, they receive a free three-month membership to use one of the 27 Planet Fitness locations across Connecticut.

We are continuing to standardize our MATCH (Medication Assisted Treatment Close to Home) to ensure that our clients have the same experience no matter where they are treated.

At our Avon MATCH (Medication-Assisted Treatment Close to Home) facility, we added art therapy, a community garden, a resource library and yoga.

Our Glastonbury MATCH location added a substance abuse partial hospitalization program, which has been successful clinically and financially.

The Cheshire MATCH location held its first client appreciation event to promote engagement and teach clients to enjoy sober activities during the summer.

And, we added MATCH services at Rushford in Meriden and Middletown to provide services to the many people who need it.

In the area of quality and safety, Rushford programs have maintained state licensure and accreditation through the Joint Commission; a new Zero Suicide governance structure kicked; and we also began our journey towards High Reliability with the introduction of daily safety huddles.

Rushford is participating in a pilot of the MARS-12 (adult population) and OHIO Scale (adolescent program) assessment tools. The full implementation of these tools across all Rushford programs and, non-inpatient programs next fiscal year will allow the BHN to strategically drive treatment goals and better understand clinical and quality outcomes.

But, no matter how good we are, mental health and substance abuse patients don’t always receive optimal care in healthcare settings. Although the number of overdose victims in Connecticut is expected to be flat this year compared to prior years, another study shows that there are many more people addicted to opioids than originally believed.

We need be proactive and prepared. There are many people silently suffering that we need to connect with. In order to do that we need to build trust.

That’s why our recovery coach program remains so important. These staff members are in recovery from mental health or substance abuse issues and work with behavioral health patients in our emergency departments to ensure that they get appropriate care. They can also help take the pressure off our other clinicians, especially in our busy emergency rooms.

Recovery coaches can reach patients in ways that most others can’t because their message is so personal. If you’re feeling hopeless and lost, it can be a very powerful thing to see someone who went through the same thing and is now living a happy and meaningful life. That’s what I call building trust, connecting care and just doing the right thing.


Patricia Rehmer, MSN, ACHE
President, Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network
Senior Vice President, Hartford HealthCare