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April 24, 2023

Community Healthlink president to depart amid 80 layoffs

Photo | Matt Wright Tamara Lundi, president of Community Healthlink

After a state inspection of three Community Healthlink substance abuse programs led to their suspension and a halt of new admissions, 80 layoffs are anticipated and the Worcester organization’s president is leaving her role.

CHL president Tamara Lundi’s departure from the role will be on May 5, according to a statement from Worcester-based UMass Memorial Health, which oversees CHL. Community Healthlink is the state-designated Community Behavioral Health Center for Worcester County north and central. Three of its substance abuse programs, which include detox programming and transitional treatment, have been voluntarily suspended in agreement with the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Addiction Services after a state investigation, according to UMass. 

The temporary suspension of the detox program, Passages program, and Thayer Transitional Support Services programs at 12 Queen St. in Worcester are unrelated to Lundi’s departure as the leader of the organization, according to the statement from UMass Memorial.

A Monday news report from the Telegram and Gazette first published the announcement of Lundi’s departure.

The halting of these services and resulting decrease in clients and caseloads spurred the decision for the expected 80 layoffs, UMass Memorial Health confirmed.

Community Healthlink employs 917 people.

SEIU 509, the labor union that represents Community Healthlink workers, said the abrupt shutdown of the programs will have a destabilizing effect on both staff and clients receiving services.

“Our hope is that there will be an investigation into the conditions that have led to the closure of the program, and that CHL will work with frontline staff to develop a plan of corrective action that centers the best interests of the communities we serve,” said the union’s statement.

Current clients in the affected programs will continue to be able to access services at this time, according to UMass Memorial’s statement.

“We recognize the urgent need for these services in our community and across the Commonwealth. We remain committed to providing detox and related services and will work with state officials to resume these programs as quickly as possible,” said the UMass Memorial statement.

Lundi was appointed interim president of CHL in January 2020 and took on the role permanently in August of that year, becoming the first Black leader of a UMass Memorial Health entity. In July 2022, she was appointed to serve on the State Board of Social Workers.

Following Lundi’s departure, no UMass Memorial Health division will be led by a person of color.

Under Lundi’s leadership, Community Healthlink was chosen to partner with the City of Worcester on a crisis co-response program, which has the potential to change outcomes for vulnerable residents, by focusing on getting people the treatment they need in the moment. Phase one of the implementation of the program was completed in 2022, and with phase two underway, a pilot of the program is set to be in use by this summer.

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