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The Future of Healthcare with Melissa Rocchi of Footprints to Recovery

As individuals, we need to advocate for our needs and take ownership of what our definition of health and wellness is. As corporations, we need to commit to providing the best care possible and invite and encourage clients to play an active role in their care. As communities, we need to support, get creative and find ways […]

As individuals, we need to advocate for our needs and take ownership of what our definition of health and wellness is.

As corporations, we need to commit to providing the best care possible and invite and encourage clients to play an active role in their care.

As communities, we need to support, get creative and find ways to educate and care for individuals who are ill-equipped or unable.

As leaders, we need to lead through action. We need to demand more from ourselves, our staff and our industries.


Asa part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview Melissa Rocchi, Executive Vice President of Operations (LTR, LCPC). Melissa Rocchi has spent the last 15 years of her career working in clinical operations, program development, admissions, clinical therapy and professional development. Most recently, she served as the CEO of Aloria Health, which she founded in 2015. A graduate of the Illinois State University, Melissa is also a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and is Art Therapy Registered, receiving her Master of Art in Art Therapy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

From a very young age I wanted to be was a therapist, specifically an art therapist. For me, that was what I always wanted to be, so I set out to do that and in doing so my career has morphed and grown in so many ways. I can honestly say, today I have a career in the behavioral health field bigger and better than I could have ever dreamed of.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The United States is currently facing a devastating epidemic, as hundreds of thousands of Americans are struggling and losing their lives to addiction. To work in an industry that’s sole purpose is to save the lives of these individual is so rewarding. The most interesting part of my journey thus far has been working with the staff on the ground. These are the people that are constantly coming up with and utilizing new tools to do just that — save lives.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes I made early on was telling a boss, “Sure no problem, I can create a Pro Forma for this.” Don’t know what a Pro Forma is? Well, I didn’t either. I spent hours putting together something that resembled a grocery list more than an accounting tool. I went in the next day and presented my ‘Pro Forma’ with everything I had. At the end of the presentation my boss laughed out loud and said something along the lines of ‘This is the first Pro Forma I’ve received that did not include numbers but, I’m sold on the project and we will figure out the numbers”. Thankfully my determination and can-do attitude worked in my favor, just as it continues to do today. Also, we have Google today which would have been so helpful then!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

FTR is led by its founder and owner, which most certainly make it stand out. This has allowed for the company to keep the heart, soul and passion at the forefront. FTR stands for Footprints to Recovery, as well as Find The Reason, which is something we talk about often, both with the clients we serve and with each other as staff. To us, finding the reason why we should or shouldn’t do something allows us to be transparent as a company and facilitates difficult conversations on how we can continue improving.

What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?

Lead by example and dream. I am a big believer that people watch what you do more than listen to what you have to say. If you want to create change, you have to model that through everything you do. I also believe that we need to dream. Dreaming allows us to tap into our creative sides and opens up possibilities otherwise not realized. Oh and don’t forget to have fun — fun is really important to helping teams thrive.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?

In my opinion, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high-income nations for several reasons. We do not place a high value on education and preventive care; therefore, our system is underutilized. We reimburse providers based on volume and intensity of services, rather than on quality and value of care. Lastly, the US healthcare system is strongly lacking in integration among providers and specialists.

You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.

The US healthcare system must place a higher value on educating the public on health and wellness, as well as the importance of preventative care. Many of the clients and families that I have worked with have told us they weren’t aware of the substance use issue or behavioral health problems, let alone how serious the effects could be. Thankfully, the stigma around substance use and behavioral health is shifting. We have an opportunity to do better at educating the public on signs, symptoms, care options and resources.

Allow doctors to be doctors and hold them accountable to providing quality care. The current US healthcare system is backwards. Doctors provide limited services based on what insurance will cover or authorize, rather than what would be the best quality care for the client’s presenting needs. This happens often when clients are in transitions and/or need to remain under a certain level of care to succeed in their recovery process.

One of the most beneficial changes to the US healthcare system would be to increase integration and communication among providers and specialists. There have been many instances in my work where I’ve found out about additional healthcare providers working with a client after the fact, or even worse, certain providers are left out of care recommendations altogether. In my opinion, healthcare providers are a team, and we must begin to operate like one.

There needs to be a shift in focus from getting patients in and out as quickly as possible to improving access to the right care, at the right time and in the right setting. Many times, clients come to treatment after several relapses as a result of not getting the right care when they needed it.

The US healthcare system must shift towards keeping people healthy and prevent common and avoidable complications, rather than only treating the sickness and symptom. As a provider, I have experienced too many clients who feel hopeless and stuck in the revolving door of treatment. We need to help our clients realize that lasting recovery is possible through preventative care and education.

Ok, it’s very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?

As individuals, we need to advocate for our needs and take ownership of what our definition of health and wellness is.

As corporations, we need to commit to providing the best care possible and invite and encourage clients to play an active role in their care.

As communities, we need to support, get creative and find ways to educate and care for individuals who are ill-equipped or unable.

As leaders, we need to lead through action. We need to demand more from ourselves, our staff and our industries.

As a mental health professional myself, I’m particularly interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now, we have two parallel tracks mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?

This is probably one of the biggest frustrations and challenges to me within our healthcare system. Our country needs to focus more on integration of the individual and the care being received. Healthcare providers, across the board, should hold equal weight to the physical AND emotional health of individuals. Truthfully, if either are compromised our patient is not experiencing their full health potential.

How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?

I would define an excellent healthcare provider as someone who values and prioritizes their, as well as their clients, emotional and physical health. In addition, an excellent healthcare provider is someone who invites their clients to partner with them in their wellness. And lastly, it’s someone who takes the time to listen.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You have to dream before your dreams can come true.”

– A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

I have found that when I dream and tap into my creativity, I am tapping into the healthiest version of myself. Dreaming and chasing dreams has brought me my greatest experiences and best adventures, and I can’t wait for many more.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

At Footprints to Recovery we are constantly working on and dreaming about new projects. Currently, we are developing various levels of care that will allow us to fully integrate the recovery process for our clients. Simultaneously, we’re always working to build and develop our staff to ensure that they show up in an authentic way for our clients. Lastly and probably most importantly, I’m so excited to be tapping into my roots as an art therapist in order to find ways to creatively invite people to Find The Reason!

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?

A few of my favorite books are Daring to Lead by Brene Brown and The Hard Things About Hards Things by Ben Horowitz. These great books challenge you as a leader to look inward and push yourself to bring vulnerability and trust into your leadership style. I look to my professional community as my greatest resource to teach me, challenge me and, most of all, hold me accountable.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

One of my core values is that I Dream. Dreams help set a foundation for our life. Dreams help give us hope to make both the imaginable and the unimaginable possible.

I give you this challenge if you choose to accept it: What are 100 dreams you have, possible or impossible? The trick to this challenge is to give yourself the freedom to get creative in your dreams — try not to limit yourself, after all they are DREAMS! Take some time to think about the things you want to do, experience, see or achieve and remember, there is no right or wrong way to dream. Start writing them down, share them with others and begin to see how the universe makes your dreams come true.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/FootprintsRehab/

https://www.instagram.com/footprintstorecovery/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/footprints-to-recovery

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2Wf7VSqMu0PgFQDKh2uBrA

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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