Athol Hospital Receives National Recognition

December 4, 2015

(Athol, MA) Athol Hospital recently received national recognition for demonstrating innovation in care coordination. Athol Hospital is committed to keeping pace with health care transformation, which is key to sustaining access to health services for the community. The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) recognized this hospital for their "Roadmap" Hospital/School Telehealth program.

The Critical Access Hospital Recognition certificate was established by The Center and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP), to recognize the excellent work being done at critical access hospitals (CAHs) throughout the country. The recognition promotes excellence and innovation and honors the achievements and results of CAHs while publicizing successful strategies.

During this round of nominations, five CAHs were chosen for recognition. “The number of CAHs nominated by their state Flex Programs is impressive,” stated Sally Buck, Chief Executive Officer at The Center. “It is wonderful to hear of successful CAH models that embrace care coordination in their rural communities utilizing providers beyond the hospital, clinic or health center. Care coordination processes benefit the patient and the overall community and will reduce the cost of health care.”

Health care delivered in rural communities is affordable, high quality and necessary to the good health of the entire community.  Rebecca Bialecki, Vice-President of Community Health at Heywood Healthcare, Athol Hospital’s parent organization, said: “the development of the telehealth network has truly strengthened the partnership between our schools and our community mental health provider. The best outcome, however, is the benefit to our children and families - offering improved access to child psychiatric services.”

Danielle Louder, Program Director for the Northeast Telehealth Resource Center (NETRC), a partner on the project said: “The Athol School-Based Telepsychiatry program is an excellent example of how innovative approaches can effectively stretch limited resources across rural communities to increase access and promote improved outcomes among those most in need. Leveraging existing relationships and infrastructure established through their Community Hospital Acceleration, Revitalization, & Transformation (CHART) program, Athol has developed a practical model for addressing the behavioral health needs of students through telehealth, while simultaneously setting the stage to expand the use of technology in meeting additional student health needs. The NETRC team has been very fortunate to work with Dr. Bialecki, the team at Athol Hospital, and with leadership at Athol-Royalston Regional School District (ARRSD) and Clinical & Support Options (CSO) to develop the Roadmap for the North Quabbin Region, and we look forward to staying involved as they progress and achieve program goals. As a regional Telehealth Resource Center funded by HRSA’s Office for Advancement of Telehealth, not only have we had the opportunity to work closely with the Athol team to address a significant gap in their community, but will continue to expand the reach and impact of this particular model by sharing program resources and lessons learned with others interested in developing similar programs, both regionally and nationally.”   

Ronnie Rom, Rural Hospital Coordinator for the MA DPH State Office of Rural Health (SORH) added: “Athol Hospital plays a pivotal role in their community and the MA DPH SORH was pleased that they were awarded a federal Rural Health Network Development Planning Grant in order to develop their innovative interagency arrangement, increasing their capacity to improve access to needed mental health services using collaborative evidence-based strategies.”  

For more information or questions about Athol Hospital’s program, please contact  Rebecca Bialecki  at

Rebecca Bialecki, Heywood Healthcare Vice President, Community Health & Chief Change Agent (front row, left) accepts a certificate from Ronnie Rom, Rural Hospital Program Coordinator from MA Department of Public Health (front row, middle).


About Athol Hospital
A member of the Heywood Healthcare system, Athol Hospital is a 25-bed non-profit, acute care and outpatient facility serving the communities of the North Quabbin region of Massachusetts. Athol Hospital’s services include 24/7 Emergency Care, Oncology, Radiology and Laboratory, Diabetes Center and Center for Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation. It is designated as a Critical Access Hospital and Primary Stroke Center, licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and accredited by the Joint Commission.

About Heywood Hospital
A member of the Heywood Healthcare system, Heywood Hospital is a 134-bed acute care hospital in Gardner, MA, which provides a broad range of high quality medical, surgical, obstetrical, pediatric and behavioral health services on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The hospital’s Centers of Excellence include the Watkins Center for Emergency and Acute Care; the LaChance Maternity Center; the Diabetes Center; and the Heywood Heart and Vascular Center, an affiliate of the Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence at UMass Memorial Health Care.

About Heywood Healthcare
Heywood Healthcare is an independent, community-owned healthcare system serving north central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. It is comprised of Heywood Hospital, a non-profit, 134-bed acute-care hospital in Gardner, MA; Athol Hospital, a 25-bed not-for-profit, Critical Access Hospital in Athol, MA; Heywood Medical Group with primary care physicians and specialists located throughout the region. The organization includes five satellite facilities in MA; Heywood Rehabilitation Center in Gardner;  West River Health Center in Orange;  Winchendon Health Center and Murdock School-based Health Center in Winchendon; Heywood Charitable Foundation;  the North Quabbin Community Coalition, an affiliate organization;  and upcoming in 2016, The Quabbin Retreat in Petersham.