HOPE VALLEY — Alison Croke has been named director and chief executive officer of Wood River Health Services. Croke, who will replace retiring director Michael Lichtenstein, will assume her new duties on Oct. 1.
Croke was selected following a six-month search. For the past three years she has been vice president of Medicare and Medicaid integration at the Smithfield-based Neighborhood Health Plan of Rhode Island, a nonprofit HMO with 200,000 members.
“Health care is where I’ve devoted my career, in particular, health care that serves government-funded programs, health care for low-income populations, individuals with chronic conditions and disabilities,” she said. “I’ve also been very interested in working at the delivery system level — working at that provider level. I really feel that’s a place where you can impact change, but also, people’s lives day-to-day, really make a difference, and federally qualified health centers are the true safety nets for the country and for our state.”
Croke, 45, lives with her family in Wakefield. Born in Pawtucket, she attended St. Mary Academy-Bayview, and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Vermont and a master’s in health administration from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Changes to the Affordable Care Act and the state budget are two challenges that Croke said she was prepared to face. “There haven’t been wholesale changes yet,” Croke said of the ACA, “but that’s always a possibility, especially under the current administration, and how that impacts people’s ability to access health care, especially at a federally qualified health center like Wood River, as well as people’s willingness to seek care that’s affordable. That’s definitely a challenge at the federal level, but also at the state level. Every year in Rhode Island, there’s a budget cycle with the state, and Medicaid is always a focus, because it’s 25 percent of the state’s budget.”
In his eight years as Wood River CEO, Lichtenstein oversaw significant operational and physical transformations of the facility.
“I’ve worked hard to make this a place that people say, ‘This is our place. We are making this transition and we have accomplished this work.’” he said. “Certainly, it takes a leader to effect that change from a very traditional style of health care delivery to an integrated team approach.”
The integrated approach, known as “patient-centered medical home,” has transformed the way Wood River serves the community.
“We have the provider, which would be the doctor or nurse practitioner, the medical assistant and the nurse available, and a nutritionist if need be, and a behavioral health specialist and a care manager, a patient navigator if there’s an insurance or other social support issue, and the team works collectively, both in the office and in the community,” he said.
Lichtenstein said he would work part time as the CEO of of a nonprofit organization known as an accountable entity, the state’s term for a health care organization for Medicaid recipients.
“We have nine organizations that are working together to create an integrated collaborative system of care for Medicaid patients, and hopefully, other patient populations down the road,” he said. “We are a nonprofit organization and there are half a dozen of these in the state that the executive office of Health and Human Services has promulgated over the last several years.”
Lichtenstein, 67, lives in Jamestown. He said he hoped that working part time will leave him with more time for his family.
“I have four grandchildren, from 5 months old up to a little over 5 years of age, so we’re spending time with them,” he said. “Living in Jamestown is like going to camp every day when you’re not working, so I’ll be at Camp Jamestown.”
Lichtenstein said Croke would be a great fit for Wood River.
“Alison has 23 years of senior health care experience in policy, advocacy, management with Medicaid populations, health insurance and state government,” he said. “I’m very delighted with the board’s selection.”