Dr. John Santopietro could have gone almost anywhere in the U.S. to lead a behavioral health team, according to Jack Scully, the president of the American Psychiatric Association. Santopietro's record of leadership was that strong.
It was Santopietro who Scully tapped after the tragic December school shootings in Newtown, Conn. Santopietro was chief medical officer at Community Health Resources in Windsor, Conn. at the time. Under his leadership, a team of professionals counseled more than 300 people affected by the tragedy in the area.
When Carolinas HealthCare System called about its position of clinical officer for behavioral health services, Santopietro was intrigued by the System’s commitment to behavioral health. Carolinas HealthCare System demonstrated its commitment earlier this year when it broke ground on a $36 million, 66-bed behavioral health facility in Davidson, NC.
"When you boil it down, I decided to pick up my family and move halfway down the coast to the Carolinas for one reason," Santopietro says. "I came because there is a cultural moment here like no other in the country right now. There is something important happening here. .... There is a moment of great opportunity."
A "cultural moment." It's not the kind of phrase typically uttered by a medical professional when discussing the future of care in his field of expertise. But, for Santopietro, there it is.
"I knew that (CHS was) building a psychiatric hospital at a time when our national story is the steady drumbeat of bed closures, hospital closures and the decimation of behavioral health budgets. I knew that they were putting millions of dollars into technology to bring behavioral health into primary care offices and that their system was primed for a mental health transformation."