Hospital director gets creative with security funding

Monday, May 16, 2011

NEW YORK—The economic downturn has meant sacrifices throughout most departments, but for security executives—who are often considered cost centers—it has meant coming up with creative solutions to find funding. During the first session of the 2011 ASIS NYC Security Expo here on May 12, Ryan LaFleur, director, safety, security, and emergency management at Waterbury Hospital in Conn., and formerly the director of security for Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, shared how he procured money for security in the midst of bad economic times.

During his five years at Lenox Hill, LaFleur said that even for a hospital on the Upper East Side—one of the wealthiest areas in the country—money was tight. “You would think Lenox Hill would be rolling in dough and you would be wrong,” he said. Five years ago when he first started, the hospital was $40 million in debt and when he left they were only $12 million in the hole and security was never high on the list of expenditures, especially considering it is never a revenue-generating department.

“When I arrived there they were still recording on VCR tapes,” he said. In order to get the equipment updated and a strategic plan in place to overhaul the security program, he had to first procure funding. And to do so was no simple task. “I had to become a salesman,” he said. “I had to find a way to spin it to [the C-Suite] so they would understand.” When he was repeatedly denied funding, he knew he needed to find another way to get the money.

One of his first steps was to find out what funds were available for non-profit organizations. “Quite frankly, it was a long and tedious process applying for grants,” he said, but in five years he received $500,000 in both state and national grant monies. The hospital still had to provide some matching funds for these grants, but the overall output of funds was relatively minimal.

LaFleur also got creative in his efforts to find other available funds. When his C-Suite told him his funding needed to be “budget neutral” he decided to look for ways to save the hospital money. He started with the valet company the hospital employed. The contract of the valet company specified that four people were supposed to be on duty and he began noticing that only two, sometimes three, people would be stationed on a regular basis. He then went back and looked at the valet billing records and found that they were billing the hospital for time when people were not stationed there. Not only did he recover significant funds from overbilling, but he convinced the hospital that they only needed three people on duty, which saved additional money. Those savings were subsequently designated for security purposes.

In total, he procured $125,000 worth of budget-neutral funding for the security department. “And that’s just a microcosm of what force we can have in security,” he said. His experience is evidence of how security professionals can be creative with how they fund their initiatives. And such solutions shouldn’t be a secret either. “We need to network with each other,” he said, “we need to steal ideas from each other and plagiarize—we’re not here to reinvent the wheel.”