Can a Narrow Hallway Close a Community Health Center and Why Patients Make Up the Board: The Start of Mark Masselli Commitment to Middletown, Connecticut

Can a Narrow Hallway Close a Community Health Center and Why Patients Make Up the Board: The Start of Mark Masselli Commitment to Middletown, Connecticut

No, Mark Masselli didn’t split the building

Geri Weitzman, a pharmacist and the son of a pharmacist who owned Pelton’s drugstore on Main Street in Middletown was part of Mark Masselli’s inspiration the creation of Community Health Center–Geri Weitzman went on to become a founding board member too.

Mark Masselli started the Community Health Center as a free clinic on a second floor walk-up just off Main Street. It might have seen like San Francisco–there was tie-dye hangings; on the wall beaded curtains separated the room, and that slight scent of incense was in the air.

The roots Mark Masselli started was bound up in the national free clinic movement started by his friends at the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics in San Francisco. At the time, there were only two health centers in Connecticut that came out of this movement: Mark Masselli’s starting one in the Fair Haven Health Center, and was fortunate to work with one of Connecticut’s brightest Public Health leaders, Katrina Clark, who passed away recently..

Katrina started the Fair Haven clinic, inspiring people within the local communities who worked hard and raised families but because of poverty and race and language were often ignored. With them as leaders and mentors and, it seems like a classic American story–that’s to say that all success stories start with grand failures, and Mark Masselli’s initial attempt was no exception.

Within months of opening, the Center was shut down by the State Department of Health at the behest of local doctors. After opening, there was a knock on the door and it was the State Health Department. Then they asked to see Mark Masselli’s license for the Center.

Well, it turned there was a valid application and all the criteria, but inspectors kept coming back and finally said, “I’m sorry to tell you, but your hallways leading up to the Community Health Center or one inch too narrow.” A cease and desist order issued immediately.

There were couple of options: slice the building in half, or go out of business.

There was no grant funding to start off with or any traditional support, and the entire local medical community had written the state asking how non-health care folks could be running in a free clinic.

But Mark Masselli chose a third option and renovated a new space on Main Street in the North End of Middletown which was completed with volunteer support. If anyone has ever been to one of the 206 plus locations in Connecticut and wonder why they have such wide hallways, now you know! Some sort of post-traumatic hallway syndrome…

From the founding in 1972, Community Health Center was a mission-based organization. Mark Masselli always asked and debated among other board members what their values were, and what should be the values that would be fundamental to a fair and just health system.

For the Community Health Center, one foundation was consumer control. Since the inception, amazingly their board has been made up of over half of those who are active patients and this value has been fundamental to who the Center is and to their success.

The Struggle for Quality Education for All: ​Ida M. Masselli NAACP Scholarship fund​

Mark Masselli, Co-Founder CHC

A little more than sixty years ago, nine African American students, registered for school by the NAACP, began classes at Little Rock Central High School protected by soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Army. It is challenging enough to be a high school student today. Imagine what it must have been like for these young students who were physically and verbally abused by their classmates because of the color of their skin.

The struggle for quality education for everyone continues today. The Connecticut legislature, as it tries to address the budget crisis approved a $300 million cut to the University of Connecticut. UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Larry McHugh described the cut as “probably the worst attack on public education” that he has seen.

One in five students at UConn come from low income families and 40% of the students are people of color. We all need to stand up for access to quality education for all people.

One of the ways we have done this is through the Ida M. Masselli NAACP Scholarship fund.

Each year the NAACP-Middlesex County Chapter selects an outstanding student to receive this scholarship. In celebration of the 100th birthdays of Ida and Nicholas Masselli, Mark Masselli expands the scholarship to support two students.

Hopefully, more people will speak up for quality education, and if they are able to support scholarship funds so that students will have access to quality education and a greater chance of success in a world where their voices are desperately needed.

Why did the Chicken cross the road……. Opioids!

Why did the Chicken cross the road……. Opioids!

Purdue Pharma cut its large workforce of sales representatives. The drug maker informed doctors recently that its sales representatives will not visit physician offices to discuss its opioid products.

Somebody said to me that they did this because they had gotten almost every American addicted to its ubiquitous OxyContin, so there was little need for those pesky and expensive sales representatives plying their way into Doctors’ offices with meals, payments, and large gifts for doctors and donuts and pizza for the staff.

This practice led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.

At Community Health Center we banned visits from drug representatives a generation ago. Instead, our providers can get the best and up-to-date online information on the efficacy of drugs through ethical sources.

Also, pharmacists are incredible resources, and many high performing health practices like ourselves have cut the connection from the pharma companies completely.

We don’t want to cast a cloud over every pharmaceutical company since many are doing great and important work but we need as a society to draw the line on rogue medical practices.  

So why did Purdue Pharma representative not cross the road to visit the doctors’ offices – Mission Accomplished everyone was addicted.

To better understand the context of Purdue Pharma’s marketing of opioids, read The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.

Mark Masselli Speaks at the Connecticut Public Health Association

Mark Masselli Speaks at the Connecticut Public Health Association

Mark Masselli Gives Keynote Talk at Connecticut Public Health Association

Building a world-class primary health care system for special populations focused in and improving patient outcomes and cultivating healthy communities.

Jonathan, thank you so much, and let me add my voice to the chorus of congratulations to the Connecticut Public Health Association.

If we’re going to solve the most pressing public health issues that our state faces today, and I know that we can all agree that by diverse expertise we mean a commitment to ensure that we have diversity within those experts today, I want to talk to you about our journey at the Community Health Center.

In our development as a national leader in primary care transformation, there are many pathways to transforming primary care. But perhaps because we were born out of a grassroots movement, inspiration has always been an important foundation of our many innovations.

For many of you in the room today, you might think about inspiration as something that comes from a political or social movement leader or religious figures, and those that come to mind are John F Kennedy and Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Some of you might look to motivational self-help books. Yet I know my 15 year old gets his inspiration from Chance the Rapper.

All of these are great yet we don’t want to narrow down when and where and from whom you might find inspiration from, and it reminds me of my travels in the early 1980s. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was visiting France and I was somehow found myself along his side for a five-day visit. We started down in Nice and we made our way all the way up to Normandy.

I remember his talk to students in Paris on enlightenment at the Sorbonne. During a question and answer session, a student wondered why it seems like all Bodhisattvas–that’s a term for anyone who has great compassion, somewhat like a saint–and the questioner said it seems like all those Bodhisattvas are Tibetans, what’s that all about?

His Holiness gave this great belly laugh and he told students that you can find a Bodhisattva anywhere where you can see the full moon, and I thought that was a great lesson as we think about where we might find inspiration.

It isn’t always in the traditional places, and it might well be from a family member,  friend or foe, so keep your mind open on being inspired. In my remarks today I hope to show you that we’ve been open to, what we have met under the full moon, and that has made all the difference.

This year, the Community Health Center celebrates its 45th year of operation. It was in 1972 that a group of Wesleyan University students and Middletown activists came together under the banner that healthcare is a right and not a privilege.

We were fortunate to have two community leaders among those local activists. Reba Moses, the daughter of a sharecropper who moved from Florence, South Carolina to Middletown in the early 1940s, and was a foot soldier in the war on poverty.

How Hospitals Can be Compassionate and Creative: Mark Masseli speaks with Dr. Stephen K. Klasko

Can hospitals be compassionate and creative places? Mark Masseli speaks with Dr. Stephen K. Klasko

Can hospitals be compassionate and creative places? Conversations on Healthcare Radio’s Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter speak with Dr. Stephen K. Klasko, President, CEO of Thomas Jefferson University and Jefferson Health System, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

They go over how hospitals can implement an entrepreneurial mentality and be a place for making innovation a priority throughout clinical and academic hospital departments.

But a big part of the conversation was on ways to encourage creativity and compassion and what next steps needed to transform the industry. Dr. Klasko made bold changes to the University and its Jefferson Health System; hear how he did it as he discusses it with Mark Masselli.