Backus Responds to Mental Health Needs of Community

By Shawn Mawhiney


With the opening of a 10-bed, private wing adjacent to its Emergency Department, Backus Hospital took great strides toward addressing the community’s increased need for mental health care.

The 3,740-square-foot Behavioral Health Crisis Unit — designed with safety, privacy and comfort in mind — separates Emergency Department patients with physical health issues from behavioral health patients, improving the experience for all.

“Put yourself in a situation where you are having your worst day, and things are not really looking good in your life and you can come to place where you have your own private room, you can have peace and quiet, where you are respected and where you are not telling your story right next to someone behind a curtain,” notes Kyle McClain, MD, Backus’ chief of emergency services. “This is what our community needed and we are rising to the challenge.”

James O’Dea, PhD, senior vice president of the Behavioral Health Network, says there is an explosion of mental health and substance abuse issues nationally and locally, but only four of every 10 patients who need care can get it, even though their conditions are largely treatable.

“This crisis happening right now in our country regarding mental health and substance abuse has never been more compelling,” Dr. O’Dea says. “It’s never been more important for us to create access points for people to get involved in care. This is about how do we better engage with our patients, find opportunities for them to get to us so we can navigate them through the care that they need.”

The project is part of HHC’s larger investment in behavioral health resources in eastern Connecticut. Just 15 miles up the road, the Behavioral Health Network plans to open a private, residential substance abuse facility in Windham.The Ridge Recovery Center will offer standard addiction services such as detox and group therapy in a residential setting that includes private rooms, meeting space, a gym, walking trails and alternative therapies such as yoga.

HHC Appoints First Director of Maternal Health Equity

By Susan McDonald

Life is coming full circle for Daileann Hemmings,who began her healthcare career as a patient care associate in maternity at Hartford Hospital,and now finds herself the first program director of maternal health equity for the entire system.

“I have two children and feel fortunate that I was afforded great care during my perinatal course,” she says. “Unfortunately, I recognize that, as a Black woman, my ability to safely deliver my babies is not an opportunity that many who look like me are afforded. I am sobered by the devastation and loss experienced by a family and a community when a birthing person dies. I am aware there are potential blind spots we may all have as clinicians.”

Along the way, Hemmings became a registered nurse and joined the hospital’s women’s health unit, where her interest and advocacy for patients with sickle cell disease led her to help create a sickle cell disease pain management protocol in 2013.

More recently, she served as team lead in the intensive care management program at Community Health Network of Connecticut, supporting underserved members of HUSKY’s perinatal population. All jobs demonstrate a deep commitment to addressing health disparities and reducing maternal morbidity and mortality, particularly among women of color.

Vested in community service, Hemmings participates in many community activities including community baby showers that provide prenatal education and support to mothers and families. In her work as an adjunct professor for an undergraduate nursing program, she engaged students and community members in homeless shelters, schools, Boys & Girls clubs and long-term care settings.

Hemmings earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from the University of Hartford and is pursuing her Doctorate of Nursing Practice at Yale University. She holds certifications as a case manager and lactation counselor.

Her goals in joining efforts to reduce maternal mortality already underway at HHC include:

  • Disrupt the healthcare system by using the lens of equity when creating and revising policies and protocols.
  • Help HHC become a leader in the nation in our abilities to mitigate maternal health disparities.
  • Challenge the status quo by being hyper-focused on a population that is marginalized with a history of mistreatment.
  • Infuse the culture with positivity to encourage self-advocacy and empowerment.
  • Encourage patients to see the work being done here and have them feel valued
  • Help in creating psychological safety among patients and colleagues as it pertains to conversations about maternal health.
Daileann Hemmings

Hartford Hospital Named Best for Docs in Connecticut

By Steve Coates

Hartford Hospital has been named the top hospital in Connecticut in Doximity’s first-ever “Best Hospitals for Doctors” ranking.

“We are so pleased to be recognized by our own physicians as a top hospital at which to work,” says Hartford Hospital President Bimal Patel. “This recognition is a testament to the culture we have created here and the strong collaboration that exists between our medical and support teams. Having such engaged and talented physicians is so important as we deliver on our mission of improving the health and healing of the people and communities we serve.”

The ranking, compiled from voting from physicians on the platform, measures hospitals on doctor’s overall satisfaction, hospital culture, schedule flexibility, and support staff. Voters must have MD or DO credentials and have worked at the hospital in the last 10 years to participate in the survey.

State First for Heart Procedure

By Susan McDonald
Juno Vu, second from right in front, was the first patient in Connecticut treated with stereotactic body radiation therapy for refractory ventricular tachycardia.

A Middletown man who suffered from blackouts due to refractory ventricular tachycardia (VT) walked out of Hartford Hospital feeling much better after a pair of Hartford HealthCare doctors performed the state’s first VT ablation using radiation on him.

The procedure, also known as stereotactic body radiation therapy, was performed in late December by electrophysiologist Aneesh Tolat, MD, and radiation oncologist Helaine Bertsch, MD.VT ablation using radiation, the first such treatment performed in the entire region, gives hope to patients like Juno Vu, who have refractory VT and have exhausted other options.

Vu, 44, has had a heart attack and had a defibrillator implanted to help with his condition, in which the heart’s electrical signals cause the lower chambers to beat too quickly. Nothing helped until the doctors performed the ablation to block the heart’s faulty signals.

Creating a Pipeline for Students to Take the First Steps into a Healthcare Career

By Libby Marino

We’ve all been there — juniors and seniors in high school wondering what career path we want to go down in life and finding that, often, it’s hard to choose.

The Hospital of Central Connecticut, in partnership with New Britain High School, has devised a way to help students decide if a career in healthcare is right for them.

“The Student Nurse Advancement Pipeline invests in these students by teaching them what it’s really like to be in a hospital setting. We introduce them to our culture, lifestyle and help them learn skills in healthcare,” says Roxanne Aldi-Quaresima, MSN, APRN, director of nursing in the Central Region, where she also oversees education and development.

Students who take part in the New Britain High School CNA program have the opportunity to come into the hospital during school hours and shadow clinical instructors or nurses. High school students become certified in basic life support by taking a course through the American Heart Association, learn vital signs and interact with clinical teams and patients from various departments at HOCC.

“It gives students new skills, knowledge anda better understanding of their area of interest,” Aldi-Quaresima explains.

Many students in the program can now envision going on to become nurses, doctors and technicians one day thanks to their exposure in the healthcare field at such a young age, Aldi-Quaresima notes. It also benefits HOCC colleagues.

“This pipeline offers an incredible way for our colleagues to bond with these young people and really introduce them to a field that can open so many opportunities for them,” she says.

Partnership Narrows Digital Divide for Some Hartford Residents

By Steve Coates
Information technology services colleagues help teach young Hartford residents how to refurbish old computers to distribute to senior citizens and first-generation college students in the city. Photo by Chris Rakoczy

Hartford HealthCare, the City of Hartford and youth development organization Our Piece of the Pie (OPP) have announced a partnership to refurbish and distribute used computers to underserved Hartford residents.

Under the Digital DividENDS program, HHC is donating 150 laptops, desktops and tablets, with our Information Technology Services team erasing the devices of data and removing their hard drives. Members of Hartford’s Youth Service Corps, a city program administered by OPP, will then receive advanced computer hardware training from HHC ITS colleague volunteers. The newly-trained young women and men will refurbish the donated computers, installing new hard drives and other needed parts and accessories. Upon completing the program,Youth Service Corps members will be eligible for internships with HHC’s ITS department.

The City of Hartford will then distribute the refurbished and fully functional computers to senior citizens and first-generation college students in Hartford who do not have access to this technology.