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BEST Comeback sTOURies: The Connection Between Financial Wellness and Personal Wellness

(In photo: Berkshire Bank Regional VP Cristina Feden, Berkshire Bank CEO Nitin Mhatre, GFHC CEO Arvind Shaw, GFHC CFO Debra Savoie, and Berkshire Bank VP Demetrino “Dino” Ricciardone)  

With personal finances, we understand increased income provides greater access choices of where you live, home ownership, the car you drive, the higher education you receive, and luxuries like vacations. There is also a connection between financial wellness and personal wellness. In general, people with greater income have greater access to health care, and sometimes worry less about how to pay for necessities.  

Recently, Berkshire Bank’s CEO Nitin Mhatre, Regional President Cristina Feden, and executives traveled to Willimantic, CT to tour and meet with Generations Family Health Center’s (GFHC) CEO Arvind Shaw and CFO Debra Savoie, and their leadership team. The Bank has worked with this nonprofit healthcare organization for over 30 years. GFHC provides medical, dental, behavioral health care coordination, and support services to an underserved population, where they treat patients regardless of ability to pay. During this visit the connection between physical health and financial health became apparent. 

The visit to GFHC was part of the BEST Community Comeback Tour to listen and learn from our clients, customers, and the community about their success and challenges. It is also to see how Berkshire Bank can help continue to lift up its customers and communities.

Both CEOs discussed the importance of relationships and the similarities with both banking and healthcare. People do business with people they trust. Great relationships include knowing someone is just a phone call away and partnerships. Customers and patients want to know that things that matter to them, matter to you. GFHC CEO Shaw said, “People need to feel like they belong, and it is part of the culture. At GFHC, we have diverse people, and they need to feel there are things in common, like a commitment to their patients." He continued, “It is relationships that sustain us through hard times.” Berkshire Bank CEO Mhatre added, “We don’t take care of patients; however, we take care of the financial health of our customers. This is also part of the reason for the BEST Comeback Tour, so we can hear stories and see how we can assist our bankers, customers, and the community.”

The economy, inflation, and debt can add stress to both individuals and businesses. This is where community banks such as Berkshire can help. During this listening tour, both CEOs discussed the importance of investing in their employees beyond paychecks. Did you know, more than half the population doesn’t even have $500 for emergency spending? Both Berkshire Bank and Generations Healthcare try to educate their employees, customers, and the community on financial wellness, retirement planning, and investing in themselves, and their future.  

Barriers to healthcare were also discussed and include language, culture, finances, homelessness, transportation, and behavioral health. Even during the peak in COVID testing, access to healthcare for the underserved population was a challenge.  GFHC was the only public access location in the area for COVID testing. According to CEO Shaw, sixty percent of those who access services at Generations eastern Connecticut locations walk or ride a bike to get services. This illustrates the transportation challenge in eastern Connecticut.   

Despite these challenges, organizations such as GFHC help serve the underserved with trust and street creed, which are both important to the homeless and veteran populations. GFHC meets patients where they are. At the end of the day, GFHC CEO Shaw said, “Our function is to keep people functioning at the highest level.”