After many years of working closely with the communities of Revere, Chelsea and Charlestown on public health issues, Leslie Aldrich was recently announced as the new executive director for the Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) at Mass General Hospital – the umbrella organization that includes Healthy Chelsea.
Aldrich has been working at CCHI for the past 19 years, and most recently as the associate executive director to Joan Quinlan, who has taken on the role of vice president for community health at MGH.
“I think it’s very exciting and I’m happy to move into this role,” she said. “Nineteen years ago when I started the work was a lot smaller scale…As the executive director, I’ll really be continuing to build on the foundation we’ve had for the Center in our communities and making sure it remains robust…Public health has really blossomed in the last five to six years as we’ve realized that prevention has to be key to everything we’re doing. It’s a big means for reducing health care costs as well.”
Aldrich has been a face of the overall organizations in Revere, Charlestown and Chelsea for several years, especially in helping with the needs assessments that the hospital conducts with the public and community – something that become much more important after the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA). Those assessments drive what organizations like RevereCARES, Healthy Chelsea and The Charlestown Coalition focus on.
In Charlestown, focusing on substance abuse has been critical for a long time, but after a needs assessment in 2012, evidence showed that Chelsea and Revere felt substance abuse issues were the public’s main concern. That happened long before an official “epidemic” had been proclaimed, and it was the ground work that led to many of the things done today.
“When we did the needs assessment in 2012, it was front and center everywhere,” she said. “Charlestown had been working on that for 10 years previously, but that concern spread everywhere. The communities told us Substance Abuse Disorder was front and center the number one issue facing them. We brought that data and those concerns to the hospital and that’s when substance abuse disorder really became a priority for Mass General…The culture, with the help of the community, helped transform how a major hospital dictates care. It’s pretty incredible. That’s what happens when you bring the resident’s voices in to make a difference. It’s a huge motivator.”
Aldrich also played a key role in working on the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health prize that the City won last year. She said the work there, and other such ventures, really sets Chelsea apart as a place where MGH can collaborate in a big way.
“Chelsea is a huge example of how collaboration works, especially with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award,” she said. “That’s really what you try to achieve – changing the culture of the community. That was a huge accolade.”
In Chelsea, Aldrich will help usher in the new drug-free communities coalition that Heathy Chelsea has just received.
“They will now be looking at substance use prevention in a more foundational way,” she said.
Aldrich has already begun her role at the CCHI and looks forward to remaining active in the communities.