Following a remarkable 40-year career of caring and advocating for individuals living with mental illness and addiction, CMHA’s Chief Program Officer Victor T. Incerti, MaCP, MAC, NCC, LPC, is retiring on June 30. Grace Cavallo, LCSW, will serve as CMHA’s new Chief Program Officer.
Victor began his career at New Britain General Hospital’s Department of Behavioral Health (now The Hospital of Central Connecticut) in 1979 and worked there for 23 years, first as direct clinical care provider and later as a Program Coordinator for outpatient and residential programs for severely mentally ill and substance abusing clients.
In 2002, Victor arrived at CMHA and would remain there for the rest of his career. His first role was as Intensive Residential Service System Manager, where he managed six residential programs, continuing to treat people with severe mental illness and substance abuse disorders, many of whom were transitioning out of state psychiatric institutions. In 2007, Victor joined CMHA’s Senior Management Team as Vice President of Residential Treatment Programs. He was appointed Chief Program Officer in 2010, and for the past decade has provided thoughtful and innovative leadership of 40+ programs, from outpatient care for adults, children and families, to intensive home based care, to residential programs, to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) for those struggling with opioid addiction. Along the way, he’s received well-deserved accolades from colleagues, clients, and coworkers for his unwavering commitment to making life better for those seeking recovery from mental illness and addiction.
“Everyone who works in the health and human services field should have the opportunity to work with someone like Victor Incerti. His compassion and commitment to the people we have served has made our organization better, and his actions have influenced a generation of professionals,” says CMHA President & CEO Ray Gorman.
“I feel extremely fortunate to have had the honor and pleasure to work side by side with this exemplary professional and extraordinary human being,” says Linda Filipetti, who worked with Victor first at the Hospital and later at CMHA, and currently serves on CMHA’s Board of Directors. “Victor is one of the most grounded and skilled clinical experts and has never wavered in his oversight role. I can honestly say under some of the most difficult situations in all our years working together never did I ever feel alone. Victor was always there to share in our successes and failures.”
Victor has long been a champion of cultural humility in behavioral health care. He served as chair of CMHA’s Diversity Committee for more than a decade, and worked tirelessly during his tenure at the agency to ensure that care was equitable and responsive to each and every person seeking treatment.
“Victor has been the most devoted champion of diversity and inclusiveness that my company has ever collaborated with,” says Michele Stewart-Copes, MS, MSW, CEO of SEET (System for Education Equity & Transition) Consultants. “I feel privileged to call him a friend.”
“In our collaborative efforts, Victor worked closely with DCF to develop racial justice strategies, including the recruitment of culturally diverse staff, leading to better understanding the families and individuals we serve. This work becomes even more important today given the renewed dialogue of racial equity in our communities,” says Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Vannessa Dorantes.
Victor also helped to advance and improve many service delivery models for DCF, including intensive home-based programs for those working to overcome substance abuse to create a safe and stable home environment for their children.
“Under Victor’s leadership, CMHA could always be counted on to always say, ‘YES’ regardless of the ask. Children today have a better life with parents who have developed increased capacity and protective factors through the therapeutic milieus he oversaw. They may not know Victor's name, but his work lives within them,” Dorantes says.
Victor says he’s humbled to have seen many positive changes in behavioral health care over the years. In addition to the progress in justice and inclusivity as barriers to care have been removed, he notes the move towards client-centered care in which individuals are given more control over their own recovery journey; the life-enhancing integration of physical and mental health care; the shift towards more peer staff with lived experience; and the emphasis on creating safe therapy spaces for clients affected by trauma.
CMHA has been at the forefront of all these initiatives, and Victor was responsible for championing them to change the face of behavioral health care in Connecticut. Victor was also integral in CMHA’s monumental shift from paper to electronic records in 2010, and more recently, in the agency’s swift transition to Telehealth to care for clients in the wake of Covid-19. He credits his peers at CMHA for helping him move things forward to transform client care.
“One thing about this organization that I think is unique is how strategically flexible not only the leadership is but the entire staff, from the CEO down to our clinicians and peer support specialists. No matter what needs to be done, it always gets done, and done without hesitation. People have always risen to the challenge, and I have no doubt that they will continue to move forward in a positive direction. The people who work here are of the highest quality. There’s no place like CMHA.”
Victor says the best legacy he can leave has already begun as others have started to thank him for their professional development and accomplishments. “I feel so rewarded for how much I’ve been able to affect their lives,” he says.
“When I think of Victor and all of the work he has contributed to CMHA over the years, there are simply not enough words to describe his passion and empathy. He has been more than instrumental in helping to create something special here at CMHA, and words cannot ever truly convey that,” says Senior Program Officer Laura Magisano. “One of my all-time favorite Victor sayings that has gotten me through tougher work days is ‘I go where the day takes me.’ He will be missed more than he knows.”