When Kevin Hazucha graduated from college in the 1980s with a degree in accounting, he saw himself working in New York’s bustling and lucrative finance industry. But he quickly realized that without a meaningful human connection, his day job would always just feel like work. He went back to school to study social work, and he’s been working in the behavioral health field ever since.
Three decades later and a few thousand miles west, Kevin’s commitment to serving people remains unchanged. As Central Wyoming Counseling Center’s newly appointed Chief Executive Officer, he and his wife Bernice are feeling right at home in Casper. They’ve adapted quickly to the Wyoming way of life with our wide open skies and highways. They’re loving the outdoors, the dry weather, and most of all, the welcoming community.
Since moving, Kevin has learned though patient acuity and problems are the same everywhere, Central and Wyoming face a few unique challenges, including one of the nation’s highest suicide per capita rates. One of Kevin’s primary objectives is to address this alarming trend, but it’s a complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions, ranging from services available to a societal shift in perspective.
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“Wyoming has the fourth highest suicide rate in the nation. This is something that needs to be talked about more openly in order for people to get the help they need,” Kevin said.
Behavioral health patients can have life expectancies 20-25 years lower than the general population, and Kevin believes that improving patient outcomes rather than increasing patient volumes is the best path to positive, enduring change. Mental health services must be integrated into the community reaching those who need it most, regardless of their ability to pay, and Central is already achieving this through dedicated and compassionate personnel.
“We have a staff who carry the banner for behavioral health. Word of mouth is really important, and with this incredible facility and the incredible people we have working here, we’re headed in the right direction,” he said.
One positive shift that’s happening across the field is an emphasis on qualitative data that measures the impact of mental health treatment, which Kevin believes will only help prove its importance. Not only will this help reduce stigma surrounding mental health, but it could also improve funding opportunities.
“We’re moving away from anecdotal evidence into more scientific measurements. I’m in favor of this, because it’s going to show how important our work is to people who might not yet understand that. Wyoming is lucky to have legislators that already support behavioral health, and as we find better ways to evaluate the good work that we’re doing, funding is only going to improve,” he said.
In addition to keeping up with industry-wide trends like these, Kevin has big plans for Central including expanding suicide prevention services, forging more community partnerships and improving recruiting efforts to attract talented and passionate employees.
“This is noble work our people are doing here. It has to be a calling. Our mission is inherent in our staff, so our clients are in good hands. We don’t want to be the program up on the hill. We want to be a partner with the community so that we can promote integrated health between medical providers. We can improve the well-being of our residents,” he said.