Providence shifts Well Being Trust's focus inward

December 1, 2022


Dr. Arpan Waghray is leading a "strategic pivot" of the focus of Well Being Trust to address more meaningfully the needs of the communities within the seven states where Providence St. Joseph Health has hospitals and clinics.


"Where our ministries are is where we felt our strongest obligation to make sure that, when people are trusting us with their care, we're always showing up for them," he says. "That required focus on our side. We could not be as effective overall if we tried to do too many things in too many places."

Waghray, a geriatric psychiatrist, became chief executive of Well Being Trust in August. The trust is a foundation created with a $100 million endowment just after Providence St. Joseph was formed in 2016 by the merger of Providence Health & Services and St. Joseph Health. The nonprofit's mission is to advance mental, social and spiritual health.

Waghray says Providence made the decision to turn the focus of the foundation's work from externally facing to inwardly facing as the harsh toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the system's workforce and communities became clearer.

Providence communities, like most other parts of the country, had been under-resourced in terms of well-being, mental health and substance abuse care even before the pandemic and the crisis exacerbated that situation, Waghray says. "It became harder and harder to live up to our promise to everyone we serve, which is, 'I will know you, I will care for you and I will ease your way,'" he says.

The Well Being Trust will work to bolster and refine the system's resources and programs, he adds, with a goal of providing appropriate treatment for all Providence staff, which numbers 120,000, as well as the 5 million people who live in the health system's communities in Alaska, Washington, California, Oregon, Texas, Montana and New Mexico.

Waghray had been chief medical officer of Well Being Trust since its inception in 2017 as well as chief medical officer for behavioral health across Providence. Though he is officially losing both those titles, he says the work he did in his lead role in behavioral health is being integrated into his new position at the foundation.

"This is the one mental health arm for Providence that will drive this change across all our communities, while simultaneously maintaining national partnerships," he says.

Waghray says the foundation will be applying an equity lens to all of its efforts to ensure that they are addressing specific needs of vulnerable populations within Providence's communities. "If there is anyone who is impacted disproportionately by mental health issues or there are disparities in the way they receive care, then that goes against who we are as a healing ministry, and that becomes a part of our work," he says.

The inward shift of Well Being Trust's focus and resources won't bring a halt to the foundation's collaborations outside of the ministry to develop best practices, Waghray says. One example is a project to address suicide risk within the health care workforce that the Well Being Trust, the American Hospital Association and other health systems are partnering on.

Waghray says the foundation is closely monitoring the impact of its programs and treatment with metrics such as case numbers of mental illnesses, suicides and overdoses in the communities where it has facilities. "Hopefully, we will share what we're doing with others so that we all learn together and advance the field," he says.

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