Wheeler Clinic appointed Sabrina Trocchi President and Chief Executive Officer in October 2019. Sabrina spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about her new role, innovations in healthcare, and how the industry contributes to Connecticut’s economy.
NAN PRICE: How has your experience prepared you for this role?
SABRINA TROCCHI: I have years of experience working in the public and nonprofit sectors. Prior to joining Wheeler, I was with the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services for approximately 14 years, of which I served as Chief of Staff for the last six years. In my role as Chief of Staff, I oversaw behavioral health services across nonprofit providers in the state in addition to the state-operated local mental health agencies.
Through that experience, I learned about the strengths and opportunities within the Connecticut healthcare system. That has positioned me very well with Wheeler, because I bring those connections and experiences with payer systems, grant-funded systems, regulations, and policies. At the same time, I’m involved in several key policy and oversight committees at the state level to influence change and how we continue to evolve our systems.
Also, last year I completed my doctorate in public health with a concentration on behavioral health and substance abuse. I’ve done a lot of work in Connecticut related to substance abuse treatment and I have a strong commitment to ensuring Wheeler’s role in addressing Connecticut’s current opioid crisis. We want to provide individuals we serve with the newest approaches and choices for resources to support them in their recovery.
NAN: Wheeler Clinic is more than 50 years old. How has the company evolved?
SABRINA: Wheeler started off with one location in Plainville. At that time, it was a small nonprofit organization focused on addressing behavioral health needs. Today, we’re a significant provider of integrated primary care and behavioral health services.
We’ve evolved by focusing on whole person care. By listening to feedback from our patients, we realized a large percentage of adults with behavioral health issues weren’t following up with primary care providers to ensure overall health. We recognized that by addressing behavioral health without addressing often co-occurring medical issues, we weren’t providing individuals with whole health recovery. So, we transformed our model of care to streamline the health process and provide integrated services that go hand-in-hand.
We now have more than 30 locations across Connecticut where we provide primary care, behavioral health, dental, and in-home community-based services. Our Health & Wellness Centers in Bristol, Hartford, New Britain and Waterbury offer many services for patients all in one convenient location.
NAN: According to your website, “Wheeler provides equitable access to innovative care that improves health, recovery, and growth at all stages of life.” Let’s talk about the innovation piece.
SABRINA: Providing whole care is one of our innovative areas of focus. With what we’re offering, there’s no wrong door. If you’re coming in for primary care, we’re also identifying behavioral health issues, providing early intervention, and connecting patients to services and supports to ensure overall health.
When you look at healthcare across the country and in Connecticut, there are still different silos for primary care and behavioral health. There’s still a lack of communication and coordination across those systems, which often means patients aren’t getting well-coordinated, well-communicated care.
Our focus is to bring it all under one entity, where we share the same electronic medical records, where our primary care has access to the behavioral health components and behavioral health has access to the primary care, and where providers are on the same floor and can have real-time discussions in coordination efforts related to patients. The result is better coordinated care for the patients we serve.
To further innovate and enhance what we offer patients, we’ve expanded our “alternative treatments,” which include things like acupuncture, chiropractic services, nutritional counseling and education, Zumba, and mindfulness classes for patients. It goes beyond primary care and behavioral health to offer alternative treatments we know can further support health.
NAN: How does Wheeler Clinic support Connecticut’s economy?
SABRINA: I see it contributing in two significant ways. First, Wheeler is a large employer. We have more than 1,000 staff across our service system, so we see ourselves very much contributing to the communities we’re currently in.
Second, our focus on mental and behavioral health and substance abuse and its impact on the work environment—we see ourselves as a solution. We offer employee assistance programs and behavioral health services. The goal is to support individuals in the workplace and ensure there isn’t a negative impact on the economy and in the workplace caused by those pieces we know can contribute to productivity loss, absenteeism, and high turnover with employers.
NAN: Healthcare is a key industry in our state. What makes Connecticut a leader in healthcare?
SABRINA: Connecticut has taken opportunities to innovate and is offering alternative services and supports that have placed us as a leader in some of these areas. When you look at integrated care and some of the advances that have been made with behavioral health treatments, our models go beyond clinical settings and into the homes to provide those services and supports.
Connecticut and its provider system have been willing to look at different evidence-based models and find ways of implementing them. As such, our services utilize empirically supported interventions with demonstrated positive outcomes for individuals served.