July 10, 2019

Gratitude and Joy in Helping People Overcome Behavioral Health Challenges

By Peggy Fischer

It was during a study abroad year as a Penn State junior that Randi Rosenthal began to understand that she really didn't want to spend her life marketing toilet paper or advertising brands.

She wanted to work with people. She wanted to make a difference.

After finishing college, she took a brief break. Then she enrolled in a master's degree program for social work at the University of Pennsylvania. Her eight-month internship brought her to a psychiatric hospital, where she worked with the adolescent population—taking psycho-social histories, communicating with families, and helping connect those who would soon be released from hospital care with the resources they would need back home. Winter coats in the winter, say. Food during each day of the week.

Pennsylvania was implementing a new managed care program for Medicaid recipients at the time. Randi found herself with a front-row seat—a chance to see for herself what kinds of processes provided genuinely helpful oversight as opposed to the systems that actually interfered with good care. The experience remained with her—into her next few years working in the rape crisis center of the Network of Victim Assistance and through 17 subsequent years at Magellan Behavioral Health of Pennsylvania, where she was ultimately named the Quality Improvement Director.

Finding the Perfect Opportunity at Accolade

Two years ago, Randi gained an opportunity to apply everything she had learned over the course of her career to a new position at Accolade. She had been seeking the next chapter, one where she could integrate her behavioral health expertise within a more broad healthcare setting. She had noticed the name Accolade popping up on her LinkedIn feed, but the glowing reports on the company frankly seemed too good to be true. It wasn't until Randi was getting her hair cut with her longtime stylist and friend that she began to trust the buzz.

“I told my hairdresser that I'd been looking for a new job and kept seeing this one company getting a lot of positive response,” Randi recalls. “Before I had the chance to tell her the company name, my hairdresser knew precisely which company I was referring to.”

That's because Randi's hairdresser was married to a man who was employed by an Accolade customer. The two had a child recently diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, and the Accolade Behavioral Health Clinician and the hairdresser had been on the phone, discussing the child's care. At the end of that call, the BH Clinician had stopped to ask how the hairdresser herself was doing, something no one—not even family members—had asked. The question made all the difference, not just to Randi's friend, but to Randi herself, who grew convinced that Accolade might just be the company so many people said it was. After sharing a resume and sitting for interviews, Randi landed the job she now has, as Director of Behavioral Health—Clinical Practice.

Taking a Whole-Person Approach to Better Health

The position, says Randi, enables her to do things at the program level that positively impact large numbers of people. Randi is focused on big-picture initiatives that directly support Accolade's commitment to taking care of the whole person, every time. Depression, for example, is the leading cause of disability worldwide, but it is too often undiagnosed or untreated. By supporting the more than 100 nurses at Accolade with an enhanced process to administer the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ), Randi is helping Accolade ensure that members get the care they need before debilitating issues multiply.

“We want to be sure we're always asking the right questions,” Randi says. “When we roll-out this enhanced process for the PHQ in October, we'll be giving our nurses an even more powerful resource that, we believe, will deepen the conversations we're already having.”

Another key initiative in Randi's purview is the continued development of Accolade's Behavioral Health strategy to include a portfolio of trusted suppliers that can support Accolade with everything from improved access to quality therapists to digital therapeutics designed for those requiring help for anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.

Finding Gratitude and Joy in Real Impact

Along the way, Randi provides subject matter expertise to prospective and current customers while also ensuring that the Behavioral Health stewards and clinicians are fully integrated into Accolade care. It is of paramount importance, Randi says, that Behavioral Health expertise is brought to bear on cases that may not, initially, look like behavioral health issues at all. It's essential that the impact this team has on the health of individuals be articulated and celebrated.

“It is such an extraordinary feeling to realize just how fundamental the Behavioral Health team has become here at Accolade,” Randi says, describing the case studies that arise and now are frequently shared during the twice-annual Senior Leadership Team meetings. “When you hear the stories I hear—about a former heroin addict now marking a full clean year or about an individual with bipolar disorder at long last reunited with his family—the only real response to it all is gratitude and joy.”

For more on Accolade's approach to behavioral health, watch a recent webinar Breaking Barriers: Optimize Your Behavioral Health Outcomes and Spend, featuring Accolade customer Junaid Karimi, Manager of Benefits at BJ Services.