Our Storytellers: Our story through the eyes of our employees
Donald W. Bechtold, MD, DLFAPA, DFAACAP, VP of Healthcare and Integration, Medical Director
How long have you been at Jefferson Center?
I started at Jefferson Center in October of 2001 as the Medical Director, so I have been here for about 17 years. Prior to Jefferson Center, I had been on the full-time staff at the University of Colorado as an Associate Professor of Psychiatry for another 17 years.
How would you say Jefferson Center has changed during your 17 years here?
The Center has changed quite a lot since I started 17 years ago. For one, it’s much larger now – I believe we had around 300 staff members when I started, and now we’re close to 650 at this point.
Over the years, we have diversified our service portfolio quite a bit. Jefferson Center has never been your conventional mental health center, while we value our role as the safety net provider for uninsured and under-insured and publicly insured folks – we have always seen a bigger role. We were and always have been leading the edge in integrated care. We know that mental health is critical to a person’s overall health, and that you can’t separate the mind from the body when it comes to health care. This awareness has really broadened as we have developed much more of a whole person health model, much more of a population health model where we are connecting all parts of a person’s health care for better outcomes. When I started, we offered more of your predictable, typical array of clinical mental health center services. Over 17 years we’ve branched out in so many other directions.
You have been at Jefferson Center quite a long time – what do you think makes for a great place to work?
I think there should be two things that draw people to a workplace. One, they should find the work meaningful. In our case, we should do good work for our patients. We should see patients enter into a recovery trajectory, and progressing along that. We should see them increasing in their function, and really increasing in their quality of life. I think when we see that, that’s reinforcing.
In the ideal situation besides personal gratification of seeing good outcomes, there’s personal gratification of relationships with the people that you work with. This goes back some years, but I was in a meeting with Donald Rohner, Jo Anne Doherty, John Eachon and some others when the emerging genome project came up. In a follow up email, somebody called it the gnome project; Donald, Joanne, John and I ran with it. We took the name for ourselves as the gnomes, and to this day any time we get together it goes into our appointment book as “gnomes.”
The point is, having the satisfaction of good outcomes is powerful, but when you have relationships that have value they truly create a positive work life.