Chris Tuttle is settling into an unexpected role.
Seven months ago, the New York native and Beverly resident was hired as Bridgewell’s Chief Operating Officer (COO) by the late Kelly Martin. Now, he holds the reins of interim Chief Executive Officer (CEO), taking it over from Martin, who died of an illness in August.
“I think the toughest part for [Bridgewell], since I’ve been here, has been the passing of Kelly,” said Tuttle. “The agency has done extremely well and a lot of that has to do with Kelly’s legacy and what she had built for the last 35 years here. My time with her was short but, in the time I got to know her, what struck me most was her commitment to the individuals that we serve and that is evident with everything that we do and everything Bridgewell has done throughout the years.”
Tuttle said Martin’s legacy was centered around innovation, inspiration and dedication, leaving a very strong foundation for him to build upon. At this point, the organization is not actively seeking to hire a permanent CEO and the senior leadership team is working with Tuttle while continuing to evaluate how to move forward, he said.
Bridgewell celebrated its 60th birthday by obtaining a new address in Peabody, but Tuttle said its home will always be in Lynn, where it was born.
“I want to build on our deep connection to Lynn, given it is where Bridgewell started 60 years ago, where the majority of our programming is, and where roughly 400 of our staff members live. We are committed to Lynn and will always be there if they need us for anything.”
The 54-year-old has years of experience working for non-profit organizations that focus on child welfare, especially in cases involving children who have experienced trauma. Tuttle worked for Health & Education Services, which is now owned and operated by Lahey and, before Bridgewell, he was the director of operations for Edify Massachusetts.
“There are a lot of of things I am still learning on the go,” said Tuttle. “The adult world is something I am still learning but the wealth of expertise that is within Bridgewell has been a huge benefit to me.”
Tuttle said what initially interested him about Bridgewell was the breadth of services it provides to residents throughout the North Shore. The staff has been very welcoming to him, even though he is from New York, he said.
Bridgewell serves about 6,500 people a year, with sites dedicated to services for autism; developmental and intellectual disabilities; substance use disorders and recovery treatments; affordable housing and homelessness; behavioral health; professional innovation; and recreational initiatives; and four specified outpatient clinics in Lynn, Danvers, Lowell, and Chelmsford.
Tuttle hopes to expand Bridgewell’s recovery and substance abuse treatment services by recruiting more coaches for the recovery coach program.
“There is no shortage of people who are in need of help and dealing with addiction,” he said. “I think we have made great strides but it is a long fight. People in recovery need to know they are not alone, especially when those dark moments come and the temptations creep in, and they need to know there are people they can call and places they can go.”
He also plans to develop programming for 22-year-olds with autism who are trying to assimilate into adulthood. Bridgewell will also form a new family and individual advisory committee, he said.
“I want to end my career here, whatever role that might be,” said Tuttle. “I have been in non-profit my whole life, meaning I am going to work forever, but my goal is to end it all here at Bridgewell. I also hope to be able to try and root for the Red Sox, at some point.”