“Wait and see” what the feds do—and get to work in Hartford in the meantime.

That’s the strategy that a new top state reformer sees for coming months, as lawmakers in Washington and Connecticut alike grapple with how to fix health care.

That reformer is Sanford Cloud Jr., the new board chairman of the Connecticut Health Foundation.

In a wide-ranging interview in his office on the third-floor of the old University Club in Hartford, Cloud said  that despite the gridlock in Washington, reformers have opportunity to make change right here in Connecticut.

“We still have work to do,” Cloud said.

Exhibit A: Sustinet, the landmark reform law passed in Connecticut last year legislation after a veto override by the General Assembly. Cloud said the legislation ensures that Connecticut will have a plan for a public option. As chairman of the Connecticut Health Foundation, Cloud anticipates some of the foundation’s investments will be geared toward supporting those efforts.

“Being sure SustiNet is implemented is important and we want to do everything we can to make it happen,” Cloud said.

Other areas the foundation is focusing its efforts on include eliminating racial and ethic disparities in health care, expanding oral health services for children, and focusing on children’s mental health issues.

Studies funded by the foundation suggest that school-aged white children often get referred to mental or medical health experts when they misbehave, but “children of color with similar behavioral issues get referred to the juvenile court system,” Cloud said.

Armed with this data, he said it’s the foundations job now to help support intervention and educational opportunities for teachers to make them more sensitive to this issue. 

Having served as chair of the foundation’s racial and ethnic health disparities policy panel prior to joining the board in 2005, Cloud said another issue that deserves attention is the issue of medical interpretation. He said at times individuals have received the wrong diagnosis because of miscommunications between the patient and the doctor. He said there should be medical interpreters in every hospital in the state.

He said the newly established Commission on Health Equity will go a long way toward addressing some of the foundation’s goals regarding racial and ethnic disparities in the medial field.

Cloud, a Hartford native and CEO of the Cloud Company, LLC, a real estate development and business investment firm, said over the next year the foundation will be handing out an estimated $6 million to support each of its goals outlined above.

But he also hopes the research and outreach the foundation does this year will help close the gap in understanding the issue of health care reform and why it’s needed.

“I’m concerned that those of us that have good health insurance are not embracing enough of the impact felt by the others that don’t,” Cloud said. “What we really have is a gap in understanding.”

“We are doing everything we can to fill those gaps out there,“ he said. “We may not be able to fill all of them, but we hope to be a major resource to help educate the public and provide data where we can.”

Cloud succeeds Leo Canty of Windsor the board’s founding chairman for its first 10 years. Canty will continue to serve on the foundation’s 16-member board until June. Cloud was elected chairman of the board this past January.

“We’re excited about having him,” Canty said.

He said Cloud comes to the foundation with a diverse background and a lot of good knowledge.

As founding chairman Canty, who has a background in labor and political organizing said his focus and strength was building up the foundation, which has become a nationally recognized health foundation.

“He was a terrific board member,” Canty said of Cloud. “He has the ability to take the foundation to the next level.”
Cloud is a graduate of Howard University and Howard University Law School. He also received a master’s in religious studies from the Hartford Seminary. 

Over his career he has held a broad range of professional and philanthropic positions, including partner in the law firm of Robinson & Cole, executive director of the Aetna Foundation, and a member of the Council on Foundations and Independent Sector boards.