HOLYOKE – MiraVista Behavioral Health Center’s Chief Operating Officer Mark Paglia has been named a 2022 Healthcare Hero of Western Massachusetts by BusinessWest and Healthcare News.
The long-time executive in the human services sector and father of four greeted the recognition in the category of health and wellness with the spirit of the team player for which he is known in helping to open a psychiatric hospital in the middle of a pandemic.
“It is an honor to receive this recognition,” Paglia said. “However, there are many other people who have been on this journey with me and who have done heroic things.”
Paglia referenced his prior positions at Springfield’s Mercy Medical Center and Providence Behavioral Health Hospital. Both part of Trinity Health at the time, Providence announced the closure in February 2021 and was purchased by Health Partners New England and GFI Partners that reopened it in April 2021 as MiraVista. Its sister hospital, TaraVista Behavioral Health Center in Devens, opened in 2016.
“In the last three to four years, there has been a lot of organizational change with Mercy and Providence,” said Paglia of two hospitals founded by the Sisters of Providence in the late 19th century. “There have been a lot of people whom I have worked in a team approach through all this change and through the acquisition of Providence.”
Paglia, who was on board when MiraVista opened, is credited with helping it expand the number of those employed from the beginning to 340 current employees during a year characterized by ongoing staffing shortages in the field of health care, integrating best practices from TaraVista and Providence at MiraVista, and expanding both inpatient and outpatient services.
“We have grown very, very fast in 15 months and we have been able to do that successfully because there is a core group here – some 60 people who carried over from Providence where they had committed their lives to helping others – and the people we have brought in on that foundation have been exceptional,” Paglia said. “We are very proud of what we have accomplished. It is hard enough to open a hospital, let alone during a pandemic.”
MiraVista has expanded inpatient bed capacity to 101 from 36 at opening. This includes 50 acute care psychiatric beds in separate units for adults and adolescents; 30 detoxification beds in its acute treatment unit for substance use disorders and 21 beds in post-detoxification for individuals transitioning to outpatient care.
“We are currently renovating new units to open early in 2023 that will bring us to a total of 141 beds,” Paglia said. “This will include additional inpatient adult psychiatric beds as well as an inpatient psychiatric unit for children.”
A 1989 graduate of the former Cathedral High School in Springfield, with undergraduate and graduate degrees from American International College there, Paglia started his career in health care at the Gandara Center in 1999, where he served as director for more than nine years. He joined the Sisters of Providence Health System, first at Providence in 2009, prior to the system becoming part of Michigan-based Trinity Health, and then, in 2020, at Mercy, as executive director of Behavioral Health Services.
“The health care legacy of the Sisters of Providence in Western Massachusetts goes back centuries and they were among the first to have a methadone maintenance program for opioid dependency,” Paglia said. “They went up against stigma to give people suffering with the disease of addiction medication-assisted treatment, and started to lead the way for that geographically when Providence became a behavioral health hospital in the 1990s.”
Paglia credited his association with Sisters of Providence to Mary Caritas Geary, former president of Mercy, and Kathleen Popko, former president and chief executive of the Sisters of Providence Health System, with his desire to work with MiraVista to “carry on some of that work from Providence and continue to serve the community in Western Massachusetts in both substance use disorder and in-patient psychiatric services.”
“I have been able to help bridge a lot of highly-qualified experts in the field over into MiraVista from Providence and together we have been able to launch a premiere behavioral health hospital in the middle of a pandemic and in the middle of a nursing shortage while providing high-quality care. We have gone through a lot of milestones together to expand services and be reviewed by regulatory and crediting bodies,” Paglia said. “We have had four Joint Commission surveys in the first eight months and received ‘deemed status’ which qualifies us for meeting Medicare and Medicaid certification which is quite an accomplishment.”
Paglia added that Baystate Health and Kindred Behavioral Health’s plans to open a 150-bed behavioral health hospital not far from MiraVista in Holyoke sometime late next year will create the most competition for staff and specialists as Baystate concentrates the inpatient psychiatric beds in its three community hospitals in one location and adds additional beds.
“The biggest challenge will be from the employee perspective as there is a nursing shortage and there is a limited number of behavioral health specialists in the area,” Paglia said.
He added that “some days there are 400 to 500 patients across the state waiting for an inpatient psychiatric bed with only 40 to 50 beds available.”
Paglia termed his own career path an “interesting one” that began in business, segued into education and ended in health care.
“I have always been drawn to help people, and specifically people who are in need,” Paglia said. “I started in the business field right out of college, but immediately recognized I did not feel I was impacting people in the way I wanted. I started coaching a wrestling team, and this led to the desire to get my master’s degree in education. While teaching, I realized I wanted to broaden how I could help young people and this led to residential recovery work with youth at Gandara. This is where I developed a passion for health care.”
He added, “Working with young people and even adults along the way showed me there is an opportunity to help those who have goals and dreams and desires to live a healthy life.”
“Many times, people just need a little bit of support and treatment to help them get there,” Paglia said. “I have not met one person who has aspirations to suffer from the disease of addiction or get arrested or sent to jail.”
Paglia’s career path led to the Sisters of Providence’s residential program known as Brightside for Families and Children that provided services to children with mental and behavioral health diagnoses, then as director of Outpatient Behavioral Health Services at Providence and eventually executive director of Behavioral Health Services at Mercy and its affiliates. Paglia shared Brightside still has a big piece of his heart.
“My career path in residential as well as outpatient services in many ways positioned and gave me the confidence to be able to step in and help open and run MiraVista,” Paglia said. “I have met and learned from many extraordinary people along the way, including Dr. Robert Roose, Mercy’s Chief Medical Officer, who have guided me to where I am now.”
Paglia spends part of his work week “rounding” with staff and patients to get their feedback.
“I am always checking in with staff on the floor, talking with patients,” Paglia said. “It is important to create relationships with folks and learn what is going well and what is not so we can respond quickly.”
Paglia said MiraVista has no wait list for substance use disorder treatment and that MiraVista can “accommodate and treat individuals in need of substance use treatment within 24 hours” of referral.
“We have patients who have been with us many years in our methadone clinic who bridged over from Providence who have given a lot of positive feedback and are appreciative of the initiatives we have rolled out around more personalized care in our substance use disorders continuum of care.”
Engagement is a big part of Paglia’s personal life, too. He and his wife, Julienne, a physical therapist in the Springfield Public Schools, met in college and are the parents of a 19-year-old son, 17-year-old daughter, and twin boys, 13.
“Together we have been able to create a wonderful life,” Paglia says of his marriage. “I do spend a lot of time with the kids, too. I coach wrestling, girls’ lacrosse and soccer.”
He likes to run obstacles races, perhaps symbolic of his day-to-day work philosophy and commitment to what he calls “human self -care.”
“Being in this field for a very long time means trying to be part of a solution to help people and help staff members help people,” Paglia said. “This is the satisfaction I get.”
He added he feels “very lucky” to have been nominated by colleagues, in particular Erin Daley, MiraVista’s Chief Nursing Officer and former director of Mercy’s Emergency Department, as a Healthcare Hero of Western Massachusetts.
“I have been drawn to health and wellness all my life and I am very lucky to have been nominated and selected as a Healthcare Hero in this category by the panel of judges at BusinessWest and Healthcare News,” Paglia said. “I am blessed to be part of an extraordinary team at MiraVista and to be looking forward to all the opportunities we have ahead of us
MiraVista Behavioral Health Center opened in Spring 2021 to address the critical need for additional inpatient and outpatient behavioral health services in Western Massachusetts. Located on the grounds of the former Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke, MiraVista offers psychiatric care services for both adults and adolescents, as well as an array of recovery rehabilitation programs including Acute Treatment Services (detox), Clinical Stabilization Services (post-detox), and outpatient services such as the Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), court-ordered services, and outpatient Medication Supported Recovery. Mira Vista cares for thousands of individuals from throughout the Western Mass region each year.
MiraVista, along with its sister facility, TaraVista in Central Massachusetts, are part of Health Partners New England, a leading provider of behavioral health care in New England for more than 20 years.
MiraVista Behavioral Health Center was built on the premise of person-centered care. We maintain an organization of thoughtful, empathic, energized team-members committed to creating and maintaining a warm, welcoming, and effective culture of care. Our purpose is to provide compassionate, effective, inspiring care for those challenged by mental health and substance use so they are empowered to lead fulfilling lives.