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Stamford Health President/CEO (opinion): The future of health care in the post-pandemic landscape

Kathleen Silard

The Darien Times

As we move into the endemic phase of COVID-19, it’s important that we continue to assess our current health care system. We need to evolve and determine how we can best address the ongoing and new health challenges in this country — including the mental health crisis — while deepening ties with our communities, supporting our physicians, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for all patients.

It’s Time to Reimagine the Role of the Hospital

COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted the elderly and communities of color, and hospitals have a meaningful role to play in addressing the systemic issues that created this disparity. Together with our physicians, our mission is to be a community pillar, ensuring the well-being of our community inside and outside our walls. This approach — which pushes a hospital’s mission beyond its patients — is not without its challenges, but it results in improved health outcomes for people of all backgrounds.

Stamford Hospital is a safety net hospital, meaning we serve a diverse socio-economic community. In 2021, we provided about $94 million in uncompensated care for our community. To build trust with underserved groups in the larger Stamford area, we work with partners such as the Vita Health and Wellness Initiative, a collaborative committed to helping Stamford’s most vulnerable members, as well as Charter Oak Communities, the NAACP, Building One Community, Americares, Family Centers, Optimus, CHC, and others. During the pandemic, we launched programs with our community partners to address two of the biggest challenges that emerged during the pandemic: increasing testing prior to the vaccine roll-outs and getting vaccines in arms once they were approved.

Our community health workers through Vita began before the pandemic and will continue long after. We strongly believe that taking a community-based approach to care is central to both the present and future role of hospitals.

We Need to Address the Mental Health Crisis

As people’s homes emerge as an alternate locations for care, there’s an opportunity to redefine mental health services. About one-in-four Americans suffer from mental illness every year, and we know from our Community Health Needs Assessment that it’s a problem in our own community, yet a range of financial, cultural, and social barriers prevent people from seeking the treatment they need.

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