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Joe Mooney has brought his wealth of financial oversight experience to assist Connecticut Hospice as its chief operating officer/chief financial officer. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
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Joe Mooney had only recently retired as deputy commissioner for Connecticut’s Department of Revenue Services when he was snapped up for a new leadership position as Connecticut Hospice Inc.’s chief operating officer/chief financial officer (COO/CFO) this past spring.
In fact, you could say that Joe was in the right place, at the right time, to take on the new role—and in more ways than one. The seasoned financial executive with more than 40 years’ experience in the government and private sector, who is also a past finance director for the Town of Branford and has served since 1996 as an appointed member of Branford’s Board of Finance (BOF) for which he’s been elected chair since 2002, was literally banging a drum in front of Connecticut Hospice Board Chair Anthony “Unk” DaRos at a time when Connecticut Hospice needed to take a new direction with its administrative leadership.
“I was actually playing at a funeral in January of 2019 down in Stony Creek,” says Joe, who is bass drummer with Stony Creek Fife & Drum Corps (he’s been a member since 1963). “And Unk DaRos comes up to me and said, ‘Joe, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘I’m retired.’ He said, ‘Come see me.’”
By then, DaRos had already initiated some changes to the management of Connecticut Hospice, starting in about May of 2018, “and that was the right thing to do,” says Joe. “The prior [CEO] had left, and Unk saw a need to bring some people in.”
Joe agreed to help DaRos and the board out by taking a look at the organization’s financial records.
“I was concerned, and said, ‘Can I help?’” says Joe.
Joe’s offer to bring his skills and come out of retirement was the start of the board’s process to bring in new leadership and help right a fiscal deficit Connecticut Hospice had been grappling for several years. In addition to hiring Joe in April 2019, they brought in Barbara Pearce as Connecticut Hospice interim president and CEO. Pearce is president and chief executive officer of North Haven-based Pearce Real Estate.
“Barbara is a wonderful lady to work with. She’s a smart, fast thinker with her background as an attorney and running the real estate company—and being a marathon runner. So we complement each other,” says Joe.
She and Joe knew of each other, but up until then, “we had never met; I had never worked with her,” says Joe. “But now, my wife calls us the Dynamic Duo.”
That’s likely due to the enormous gains they’ve made to address structural, organizational, financial, and compliance issues to equal the sterling reputation Connecticut Hospice has always enjoyed in terms of its professional medical and staff patient care and palliative services. But financially, in the several years before Joe and Barbara arrived to help, Connecticut Hospice had been running deficits, says Joe.
“It’s because they’ve relied on philanthropy to balance the budget, but in the last half a dozen years, they haven’t,” he says.
The duo’s restructuring work involved eliminating some positions, consolidating some satellite offices, looking at contracts and salaries in some instances, and determining how to rebuild relationships with the hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. It also involved bringing some new managers into leadership roles who brought with them the energy and desire to help Connecticut Hospice remain competitive.
“So it was not only Barbara and I bringing our experience and management skills to the table, but enabling staff to do things that they were good at,” says Joe.
Connecticut Hospice has been based in Short Beach in a large, expansively windowed building on the waterfront that was built circa 1980 as the former headquarters of Echlin Manufacturing. The building is now in need of significant upgrades, from structural work to heating and energy upgrades, as well as the need to develop purposeful, dedicated spaces for all of the services need to provide well-rounded hospice, in-hospice, and palliative care and home care presence.
“We didn’t underestimate the amount of work to be done. Because it’s a wonderful staff, they provide great service, but they really didn’t have great management. So we’re enabling them and empowering the managers and the staff to really step up to ensure the continued success of Connecticut Hospice,” says Joe.
The problems Joe found were largely due to failing to address, for several years, some significant changes to the marketplace, insurance reimbursement practices and policies, and the health care profession itself.
“[Connecticut] Hospice didn’t really keep up with it. So we’re technically an underdog now, and I always was a champion of underdogs. And I believe in the mission. I’ve had personal experience with the mission here,” he says.
Joe has relatives who were provided with end of life care services offered by Connecticut Hospice, including his sister, his dad, and his late wife, Elise, who passed away in 1999 due to complications from diabetes. His sister was assisted back in 1983, when the facility, which was the first of its kind in the nation, was located on Burban Drive. His late wife received Connecticut Hospice home care and his dad received Connecticut Hospice care and health services in 2010.
To be able to give back to Connecticut Hospice at this point in his life has been “a wonderful experience for me,” says Joe. “I’m grateful that I’m able to contribute. We’ve done a lot of work, but we have a lot more to do.”
A Branford native, Joe earned his undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and became a CPA. He was hired in 1977 as Branford’s first finance director. He says he learned quickly about the bonding and credit markets and budgeting, and served in the role for 15 years, beginning with the administration of then-first selectman John Sliney. In 1992, he took an opportunity to work for the state’s Department of Children & Family Services, working with its commissioner. In 1994, then-governor Lowell Weicker asked Joe to transfer over to the Department of Revenue Services (DRS), where he remained until 2000.
That same year, Joe married his wife, Nancy. He’s been blessed with stepdaughter and three grandchildren, who call him Poppy Joe and who are currently going through Branford Public Schools, including BHS 2019-’20 hockey captain Spencer Engstrom and his younger siblings, who are also involved in sports.
After leaving Hartford in 2000, Joe provided consulting services to private companies until 2009, when he was called back to the capitol by the DRS commissioner, who asked Joe to served as deputy commissioner. Joe stayed on until he retired in 2018.
“It’s a department of very dedicated folks and they have the sometimes untenable task of implementing the action of the legislature and the policies,” says Joe.
In both his time in Hartford and over more than two decades as an appointed member of Branford’s BOF, Joe has worked with administrations representing both political parties.
He credits the diverse and talented members of Branford’s BOF with remaining apolitical in their role and always working in the best interests of the town. He also credits current Finance Director Jim Finch with helping the BOF and elected town leaders to continue a track record of keeping Branford in great financial condition.
“The groundwork was laid years ago, and Jim Finch and [First Selectman] Jamie [Cosgrove] are doing a wonderful job up there, working with our board and the RTM to really to maintain Branford’s strong credit and sound strategy of financial planning and services,” says Joe.
The same can be said for the work that’s being done to uphold the excellent reputation and relationships developed by Connecticut Hospice with area hospitals and others, he adds.
“We’re looking to make sure that we’re out there, and that folks know that we’re able to provide as good or better services than the competition,” says Joe, adding giving the highly qualified staff more independence to help develop the “people, process, and technology” that’s key to creating a good, well-managed, and accountable staff.
“We’ve got their back,” he says of himself and Pearce. “You give them what they need, but you also have to have good measures in place, so we not only meet the goals of the organization and support the mission, but you’re also in compliance with the regulatory agencies. People who have left here have come back since Barbara and I have been here. They’ve come back because they love hospice. So that’s a tribute to not us, but the mission.”
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