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TCEM Spotlight: Sierra Tucson CEO Jaime Vinck on Breaking Down Organizational Silos

May 13, 2019

Patients with complex challenges often require integrative models of care. To provide such, treatment centers need their various departments on the same page.

Sierra Tucson CEO Jaime Vinck, MC, LPC, NCC, CEIP, has been leading strategic operational initiatives since joining the organization as its chief clinical officer in 2014. At next month’s Treatment Center Executive & Marketing Retreat in New Orleans, Vinck will discuss keys to bridging the gap between executives, marketers and clinicians, along with Richard Appert, vice president of admissions at Acadia Healthcare.

Ahead of TCEM, Vinck spoke with Behavioral Healthcare Executive to explain how a career that began by negotiating with unionized autoworkers on Chrysler’s assembly lines prepared her for guiding Sierra Tucson in the development of its integrative model today.

You’ve had an interesting career path, working both inside and outside healthcare. How have the different roles you’ve had throughout your career helped to shape the way you approach your current position as CEO of Sierra Tucson.

My first position out of college was as part of a human resources training program with Chrysler Corp. in Detroit. That was when Chrysler was making its comeback in the Lee Iacocca days. What I learned there were the foundations of business and being a professional. There is no better training ground. It was also a union environment, and my undergraduate degree was in labor relations. I learned a great deal in terms of cooperation and negotiation, concessions, those sorts of things being in a union environment. In my almost 10 years with Chrysler, I was extremely fortunate because the way the program went is that you got a new position every year, and depending on your success in your prior position, that determined whether you moved up the ladder. While my career ended up taking a compensation turn, I got to spend time with union folks and in assembly plants and learn the art of negotiation and concession. There is nothing more valuable as a CEO than the ability to have a win-win-win for everyone across the board, as tedious as that sounds. That’s what Rich Appert and I want to talk about at TCEM.

Your first role with Sierra Tucson was as chief clinical officer. What did that experience do for you?

I was in clinical leadership with another group of treatment centers and was recruited from Phoenix to Sierra Tucson, which was in a very interesting spot at that point. They needed someone to work on their clinical programs and create very strong teams. That was my role, to work with a number of other clinical leaders in program redesign so that the services we were offering were the best and brand appropriate. We worked hard on that, and my clinical background was essential to understand the evidence-based practices and to get our product where we wanted it to be.

The other thing I did as chief clinical officer was focus on the resident relationship and experience. We partnered with DePaul University School of Hospitality Leadership. We created a resident relationship and experience training that we use to this day for every new employee, basically showing all of our employees a way of being when it comes to interacting with patients, families and referents and that part of the culture.

More and more, we’re seeing psychotherapy, psychiatry and admissions no longer existing in silos. What are some keys to fostering successful collaboration across your organization?

First and foremost is to have a leader that verbalizes a common mission, something that all of the departments that tended to be siloed can get behind. That’s where culture comes in. At Sierra Tucson, I speak of a culture of safety. Employees have to be safe. The brand has to be safe. The patients have to be safe. That’s language that every single person who works here can get behind. It resonates with everyone. It begins with verbalizing a common goal, and then when we think about driving census, that’s something that therapists and doctors cringe about when someone says it. But the way it works now, we think about it in terms of access to care. I believe we offer the best integrative care in the world, and it’s our ethical responsibility to provide it to as many people as possible. Does that drive census? Absolutely, but it also provides access to care. In terms of length of stay, research tells us more treatment is always better, so of course we want our residents to stay in treatment longer. That’s what Rich and I will be talking about: having that common goal and language. Language matters. Word choice matters, especially when we are dealing with folks who, professionally, chose very different paths.

When we talk about developing integrative models of therapy, can you share an example of a challenge you have faced as an organization and how you addressed that challenge and overcame it?

As we shifted from a private pay model to a managed care model, the therapists had to get used to proper documentation. We document now to deficit, rather than to progress. It was a real paradigm shift. Typically, in a private pay environment, the model is “less is more.” A therapist will go in and say, “Tom is meeting his treatment goals.” When we shift to managed care, we get to be extremely verbal about what is going on with this patient so that we can get them as many days as possible. To demonstrate the intensity of service, we had to shift our mindset in documentation. That is an ongoing challenge.

The Treatment Center Executive & Marketing Retreat, June 10-12 in New Orleans, provides CEOs, CFOs, COOs, directors, senior marketing/business development/admissions leaders, and other executives with the tools they need to effectively and ethically grow their services in a rapidly changing market. For more information, visit

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