Offering a variety of services including behavioral health, dental, HIV and infectious disease care and family planning, CCI Health and Wellness Services aims to create a more equitable medical experience for communities facing social, economic and cultural barriers.
The Maryland Daily Record reached out to Dr. Sonya J. Bruton, CCI’s president and CEO, to discuss a variety of topics, including COVID-19 vaccination efforts and the organization’s future.
The Daily Record: Earlier this year, CCI was the first in the state selected to participate in the Health Center COVID-19 Vaccine Program which was part of the Biden administration’s efforts to reach the hardest hit populations. What was that like for the center to be the first one?
Dr. Sonya J. Bruton: It was validation. We have in our location and our part of the state and in our health center really focused on just doing the work. Not just throughout the pandemic but throughout our organization’s history and in that focus we are not always seen or recognized because we are putting our efforts in the patients and in the populations in our communities and not necessarily spending the time to tell our story, so it was just a real nice validation and a recognition that we were an organization that was producing.
TDR: How many have you vaccinated and what are your outreach efforts to possibly get more people vaccinated there?
Bruton: For all of us who are vaccinating, the numbers are lower now (as of Aug. 27). Most of the folks have been vaccinated who are wanting to be vaccinated or are able to be vaccinated and so our numbers now are going down. We are vaccinating maybe 75 a week and that number dwindles. It has gotten down to 75. If I look at the numbers for next week, our count may be down to 50. We think we will see an uptick once the boosters begin to be rolled out and put in the arms of any wanting or willing patient or participant. For now, the demand is lower because we have done a pretty good job of penetration in our service area.
TDR: You became CEO in April 2020 just as the pandemic was beginning. What was it like to be a leader during an uncertain time?
Bruton: For me it was really what I have been bracing for, training for and felt very ready for and so for me it was a ‘put me in the game coach I am ready‘ moment. It was resolve. It was competence and focus. Those were the spaces that I was embodying. As somebody who has devoted my entire career to service, this was the ultimate call to serve. … It was definitely a ‘I’m ready for this and we are going to get this done whatever this turns out to be (moment).’
TDR: CCI received praise for keeping its doors open during the pandemic. Why was it important to you to remain open?
Bruton: Primarily it was important because that is what our community needed. Anything less was to not serve them and we knew that. … We know our patients. We know the communities that we serve. What I knew for every one of our business lines, they were not going to equitable or sufficient virtually. One of the areas that most places throughout the country and definitely in the state have been able to pivot pretty seamlessly has been therapeutic services — or behavioral health is what we call them. What we knew here at CCI was that anything that relied on patient report or history that those would be the best services to be done virtually.
Technically that should have been easy. We should have been doing most of our work in that method but what we knew was that still required a safe private place to have a conversation and many of our patients don’t have that. It required the ability to have the method of transferring of information so whether that is a phone or whether that was a computer many of our patients didn’t have those that they controlled. So our patients like everybody else most of them have a phone, a smartphone or one of those pay-as-you-go phones, but in our community they don’t control that phone often. They don’t control their internet account if they have an internet account.
TDR: What does the future look like for CCI?
Bruton: The future for CCI looks a little bit broader and so we are going to expand. We are looking to expand into some of the more southern parts of Prince George’s County so we are going to be looking into partnering with the Adventist Healthcare Hospital system in a much more integrated and deep way. What we see is necessary and have known but really see as a non-negotiable. We’ve got to figure this out on behalf of our community. (We want) to be able to offer greater acuity of care in our settings that they have come to trust and that they know will be open and available to them. I see us bringing many more services to our patients through our service sites so we are looking to bring in more specialists.