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Getting to Know: Community Psychiatry CEO J. Christopher Brengard

Community Psychiatry’s CEO Christopher Brengard discusses leadership and challenges within mental health care.

Getting to Know is an ongoing series from Behavioral Healthcare Executive that highlights executives and organizations in behavioral health and addiction treatment who are on the rise and making a difference. Today, we meet J. Christopher Brengard, CEO of Community Psychiatry, a Sacramento, California-based provider of outpatient behavioral health services.

Brengard joined Community Psychiatry earlier this year after serving as chairman and CEO of U.S. Renal Care from 2000 to 2020. Brengard founded U.S. Renal Care in Arkansas in 2000 and grew the organization to more than 350 dialysis centers during his tenure.

What is your leadership philosophy?

My philosophy is built around team building. I firmly believe that the most efficient business structure starts with a team of people who are experts at what they do. I am the absolute opposite of a micromanager. I’ve observed that people perform better when given the appropriate space, time and confidence. My job is to hire exceptional people, provide a clear strategic vision, provide support where needed and keep everyone on course.

If you could go back 5-10 years in your career, what is one lesson you’ve learned since then that you wish you could tell your past self?

I would tell my past self to not sweat the small stuff. Over my career, I’ve learned how important it is to not let bumps in the road disrupt the overall journey. I keep my eye on the big picture and work to ensure everyone’s on the same path. At Community Psychiatry, that big picture is about building a team and a business. It’s about ensuring patients have access to care and are treated efficiently and effectively. It’s about creating value for our patients and shareholders alike.

If your organization achieves significant growth over the next 5 years, it will be because…

Our organization achieving significant growth will be because we put together a strong team of people who are passionate about what they do. There is so much potential for growth in the mental health industry. There’s such an opportunity to redefine how we treat patients, particularly with regard to access and outreach. This is also an opportunity to examine ways to be more efficient with providers and insurance companies. And all of these answers will come because we are building an experienced team tasked with finding new and innovative solutions.

The biggest challenge facing our field as a whole today is…

There are two major challenges in our field today. One is access to care. In outpatient behavioral health, there’s no guarantee you can see someone today or even 10 days from now. The entire system is riddled with inefficiencies, and it continues to be the biggest issue everyone is trying to solve.

The second issue is population health data. Unlike surgery, it’s not always obvious when a patient needs mental health services. That’s why good clinical data is so important. It allows providers to develop best practices to deliver the highest efficacy of care. It also frames the definition of what clinical success is. Not only is this vital in knowing how to treat a patient, but it provides important guidance for insurance companies and employers.

What challenge keeps you up at night?

We need to come up with an efficient treatment model that will increase patient access to mental health services. Today, the demand is so much bigger than the supply, and we can’t simply create more mental healthcare providers. So, we have to come up with a comprehensive plan for taking the resources we have and applying them in the most effective way. Otherwise, there will be hundreds of thousands of patients left behind.

What drives your personal commitment to our field? What is your inspiration?

What’s inspiring for me is being able to play a role in shaping how the mental health industry will evolve and adapt. There are incredible opportunities to create new approaches to patient care as well as strengthening the relationship with providers and other stakeholders.

When I started with Community Psychiatry, one of the things that struck me is how everyone in the world has a connection to mental health. We all have friends and family who use mental health services, and I know others who struggle in getting the help they need. It really underscores the incredible reach of the mental healthcare system. And it’s really inspiring to think that Community Psychiatry has an important role to play in developing its future.

Click here for the full article in Behavioral Health Executive.