by Vito J. Leo
In addition to a stirring tribute to outgoing chairman Dr. Raymond Johnson, the 55th Annual Reception of the Natchaug Hospital Board of Directors focused on the organization’s overriding principle: Helping people living with mental illness navigate in a sometimes challenging world.
Chairman-elect Carol Wiggins told those gathered at the Coast Guard Academy on June 10 that there was one phrase that must be the motivating factor in all the hospital’s endeavors, “Helping people find their way.”
Carol said her primary goal as the board’s new leader would be “to make sure that people realize all the services that Natchaug has to offer. I also intend to continue as a board member to be supportive of this incredible staff and all our off-site facilities, especially the schools that Natchaug operates, offering special education beyond that provided for students with social emotional disorders by public schools.” According to Raymond, his successor is “fair, she’s bright, she’s smart and she has integrity.”
Dr. Craig Martin, a former Natchaug staff psychiatrist now employed at the Naval Health Clinic of New England, gave a fascinating presentation about his work involving traumatic brain injuries and related disorders. “Brain injury is a signature wound in our global war on terrorism,” Craig said, noting that the symptoms are often masked so that “returning combat veterans may not even know they have suffered such a wound”
“Caring for returning veterans is a big component of what we do here at Natchaug. Veterans benefit from our mental health expertise,” said Dr. Stephen Larcen, CEO. In recognition of his service while at Natchaug, Craig was presented with a Distinguished Service Award, along with Bruce Cummings, CEO, Lawrence & Memorial Hospital, cited for his “patient-centered, community-wide perspective, and especially for positioning mental illness in the context of overall health care.”
Stephen noted that, “L&M is very important to us at Natchaug not only for the large number of referrals we admit from them, but also for providing our clients with necessary medical care.” Also recognized during the meeting was retiring board member Leila Shepard for her 12 years on the board.
T he highlight of the evening was the sincere fondness shown for the board’s retiring chairman. “Ray brought an unprecedented level of expertise to the operations at Natchaug Hospital,” Lillian Rhodes, Community Relations director, wrote in the program prepared for the annual meeting. “He always sought out opportunities to express his appreciation for the contribution of each employee and the quality of care they provide for our clients.”
“These seven years as board chairman have been the most memorable experiences of my life because of what I’ve witnessed here day in and day out,” said Raymond who was surprised when It was announced the hospital would dedicate one of its office buildings in his honor. “I can’t tell you how much this evening means to me.”