Brian L. Ulery, FACHE, CEO of Saint Clare’s Health, a member of the Quality Institute’s Provider Council.
As the new CEO — and as someone new to New Jersey — what are you bringing from your previous roles that will inform your priorities at Saint Clare’s Health?
I’m asked that question frequently. There are more similarities than you might think between my organization in West Virginia, where I came from, and Saint Clare’s. Both are in the shadow of billion-dollar competitors, and both are incredibly competitive environments. Similarities include staffing shortages in nursing, the dynamic of health care financing, and working in an environment still rebounding from COVID. The experiences are comparable in many ways.
Saint Clare’s Health is pioneering new ways to treat mental health in the community, such as mental health urgent care sites. Can you explain how these urgent care centers work?
We recently opened Mental Health Urgent Care in Warren County that offers a host of support services. These services offer counseling, crisis intervention, medication evaluation, peer support and more. We saw a need for community members to have access to emergency services without going to a hospital emergency department. It is important to offer choices when people need rapid access to mental health care.
In addition, our emergency departments are equipped to handle people with mental health crises. We also have outpatient opportunities for patients to walk in. We have inpatient units for patients in crisis at our Dover and Denver locations, and this includes patients who need to be involuntarily committed. We provide the full spectrum of care.
Your commitment to mental health services extends beyond these outpatient urgent care centers. How else is Saint Clare’s responding to the increased need for mental health services?
In addition to our ERs and our two outpatient programs, we provide rapid access to mental health professionals, most often on the same day people reach out to us. For instance, we have a walk-in detox program. People can get to our outpatient centers or the ERs and just ask for help. We have people there able to support them. We also are looking at ways to increase the number of detox beds that we have in our program right now.
We have a children’s crisis center in Boonton that remains fairly full and offers a full range of behavioral health treatment, in patient or outpatient. We also are in 100-plus schools, partnering with schools to provide additional care. We want to be a resource for the community. It’s an area we have invested in for many years as an organization. We have highly qualified professionals that provide personalized and coordinated care through a team approach.
Saint Clare’s has historically performed well on the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Scores. Leapfrog excellence requires a sustained commitment to safety. Can you share your plans to maintain high scores?
When you work in health care, you hear the doctor’s oath of, “first, do no harm.” As a new administrator, I want to make sure that I’m maintaining all the great things that the staff has done over the years. Every week, I have a conversation about quality with the executive team members, our quality directors, and others to make sure we are continuing on the right path and maintaining or improving patient safety and quality. We’re incredibly focused on monitoring and always improving our performance on quality measures.
Finally, we like to ask a question beyond your professional life. Do you have a favorite New Jersey artist, performer, writer, singer, etc.?
I would say Zach Braff, known for his role in Scrubs. I thought highly of his writing and directing of the movie Garden State, a favorite of mine, and a good introduction for me coming to New Jersey.