Jorge Mendez Promoted to Vice President, Clinical and Residential Operations at Psynergy Programs
May 20, 2020 – Jorge Mendez, who has helmed Psynergy Programs’ residential operations since early 2019, has expanded his responsibilities to include management of clinical operations at all of the facilities operated by the California-based mental health care provider. Before joining Psynergy, Mendez worked for the Santa Cruz County Behavioral Health Department as Senior Health Services Manager, leading that County’s Whole Person Care Pilot program. This is a state-recognized innovative program seeking to improve outcomes for people with mental illness who experience high hospitalization rates due to co-occurring disorders, including chronic medical conditions and substance use. He was also company President of the BHRN App, which maps behavioral health services across California. Mendez led the development of the free statewide tool and continues to contribute to its content.
“Jorge is someone who clearly sees the big picture of what’s needed today in mental health,” says founding partner Jean Edwards, chief communications officer with Psynergy. “He has great ideas and also has excellent implementation skills. He has been working in mental health for over 15 years, holding senior management positions at both Telecare and Front Street. His work with the BHRN app has been truly transformative for many clinical care workers and their clients.”
For the past year, Mendez has been working on processes and procedures to further refine the residential services offered by Psynergy Programs.
“My focus has been around policies and procedures in staff development and training,” says Mendez. “Specifically, our focus has been on operationalizing the use of audit tools across five different departments: resident, employee, dietary, medication room and physical plant, to help ensure compliance with regulatory standards and also Psynergy’s own best practice standards. This initiative has helped concentrate our administrative energy on identifying what’s important – things that contribute to the safety of our clients.”
As an example, he noted the extensive mandatory training that medication room technicians receive.
“In our residential facilities, our med techs have essentially the same job that nurses in hospitals do. They are responsible for passing out meds to all residents four times a day with the same accuracy that you would expect from a registered nurse,” he says. “Our people go through a formal training schedule that involves 40 hours of shadow training, classroom testing and teaching to make sure that they are prepared for that role.”
Mendez was also part of the leadership team that developed Psynergy’s Covid-19 response. The committee started working early in March before the Bay Area initiated shelter-in-place orders.
“We were very much at the front end with planning a response to what we saw as an oncoming threat,” says Mendez. “Our group organically grew to include all managers and the corporate office personnel that helped build cohesion around our response. Currently, we are fortunate to have had no cases, but that was the result of the incredible response from all Psynergy managers involved who had the energy to tackle each and every one of the issues we faced. We are checking staff and resident temperatures daily, and implementing PPE and aggressive sanitation in the common areas.”
As Mendez takes over planning for the clinical side of the business, his overarching goal is to achieve a sharper definition and cohesion of Psynergy’s treatment model, creating a single vision of what the treatment programs look like and how they serve clients. He sees investments in staff training and development as key.
“Psynergy has a very strong reputation. Everyone here needs to understand why we have that reputation, and know our standards for care inside and out. I feel proud to be a part of Psynergy and to have the opportunity to positively impact what those services look like,” says Mendez. “We need to identify what our successes are and learn to replicate them across other facilities as we open them.”
Psynergy Programs is poised to nearly double the number of clients it serves over the next two to three years. Mendez says that his most compelling goal for the next year is to strengthen employee teams and invest in programs that are successful. He sees succession planning as a key element, preparing new leaders within the company to take on those challenges. He emphasized the need to develop opportunities for employee advancement and opportunities for leadership.
When asked what he sees as the most important priorities for mental health care in California, Mendez had no trouble getting down to specifics.
“In the big picture, we need to address the need to accommodate people with co-occurring disorders. People with mental illness die approximately 25 years younger than the general population – often with co-occurring conditions including substance use and chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disorders and COPD, exacerbated by obesity and sedentary lifestyles,” he said. “We need to increase the capacity to continue to serve California’s highest-risk population and lead the state in residential treatment services for people with chronic mental illness and co-occurring disorders. The need for whole-person care is great and Psynergy has the will to provide it.”
When he is not working, Jorge Mendez enjoys spending time with his two sons aged 14 and 16.
“We tend to dabble in everything from 3D printing to forging and casting. Recently we started working with leather, making wallets, pouches and bags and such. I enjoy their hobbies – skiing, surfing, crafting. I just try to keep up with them,” he laughs.