Connecticut Mental Health Center: Starting from Scratch
“Fresh Advantage is a pioneer in reframing how food and nutrition must be incorporated into all health care practice—from acute care environments to outpatient and community-based settings. Not only is their leadership visionary and creative, they listened to our needs and goals and created a practical, cost-effective plan to completely reinvent our food service operation and mesh it with our research and therapeutic programs. There’s no end to the superlatives I can come up with to describe Marydale DeBor’s work as a consultant and colleague.”
– Robert Cole, Chief Operating Officer, Connecticut Mental Health Center
This State of Connecticut mental health facility, which is managed by the Yale Department of Psychiatry, serves indigent individuals (40 inpatients and 5,000 outpatients per year) with serious mental illness, often combined with substance abuse problems. Most of the patients also suffer from other conditions including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. On average, these patients have a lifespan 25 years shorter than the general population.
To achieve the CEO’s strategic vision of holistic care and a high level of customer service, the Center established a primary care clinic on site to reduce fragmentation of care; developed a physical activity program, including a small gym and a cycling program for employees and patients; and established a weekly farmers’ market on site from June to October.
The strategic vision also included fundamental changes in the role of food in the Center’s mission. Both the retail café and inpatient food service were severely lacking in nutritional value and overall quality of service.
Fresh Advantage developed and helped to implement a master plan to completely restructure the nutrition and food service operation. This plan incorporated nutrition and food service into the Center’s therapeutic, research, occupational, and recreational therapy programs.
This comprehensive master plan included:
- Development of an institutional food policy
- A campus-wide healthy beverage initiative and initial improvements in the retail café food service (pending needed renovation)
- Development, funding, and construction of a courtyard edible garden
where garden skills and recreation activities are coordinated with therapeutic care
- A capital improvements plan with a complete renovation/design plan for a full-scale commercial kitchen
- Assistance with fundraising for the kitchen renovations
- A retail café menu plan
- A retail café business plan developed in collaboration with Yale University’s School of Management
- An RFP for a vendor to consolidate and manage both the retail and inpatient food services
- Collaboration with ongoing research and evaluation activities by university and medical school faculty
For further information, read the Case Study on the Health Beverage Program, instituted collaboratively with Fresh Advantage and the Connecticut Mental Health Center.