Case Studies: Suellynn Stark

“With Anne’s help, staff members began to let go of adversarial attitudes. This helped us to get through the difficult task of streamlining operations.”

—Suellynn Stark, Vice-President
Mt. Tom Mental Health Center, Holyoke, Massachusetts


Private non-profit mental health center


Ms. Stark had been with the center for several years, but this was a new role for her. She knew the organization needed a major culture shift to move forward, but “I didn’t have the experience to say, ‘This is how I’ve done it before, this is what will work.’” So she and her superiors sought an organization development consultant with nonprofit experience-one who understood the needs of a community mental health center. They also looked for someone genuinely warm and caring who would work with them collaboratively to establish trust. After interviewing several candidates they chose Anne Litwin.


To get to the heart of the morale problem, Dr. Litwin conducted small group meetings to let staff members voice their concerns. She learned they felt excluded from decision-making processes directly affecting their jobs, and that unclear roles led to functional overlaps. She examined departmental structure and processes to delve into the causes of the deficit, and recommended strategies for effecting change. And she coached Ms. Stark on how to interact more effectively with both her staff and her superiors. “I would ask Anne, ‘Am I on target?’ and would always trust her to give me a reality check,” she recalls.


“With Anne’s help,” notes Ms. Stark, “staff members became active participants in a collaborative process and began to let go of adversarial attitudes. This helped us to get through the difficult task of streamlining operations. Had we administrators come up with the same result ourselves, it wouldn’t have gone over as well.”

In the midst of Dr. Litwin’s work with Mt. Tom Health Center, its parent organization merged with Behavioral Health Network, Inc. (BHN), and the center became a part of BHN. Ms. Stark, who was promoted to Vice-President and now oversees the entire health center, notes, “Anne did a tremendous amount to help me move into this position.”

So the operation was successful—but did the patient survive? Happily, yes. Ms. Stark reports that, with Dr. Litwin’s help, the budget deficit has shrunk and Mt. Tom Health Center is on the road to recovery.