HR Pro to Health Care Leader: Deborah Hillman Toll vows to help vulnerable people

By Alison Bailin Batz

After graduating from Eastern Illinois University in 1999, Deborah Hillman Toll moved to the Valley to begin what would become a legacy of leadership and giving back.

Initially, she worked with executives to build and execute human resources strategies. A significant project with a local chief executive officer early in her career proved to be a pivotal moment on Toll’s professional path.

“Serving as a trusted confidant during the project and working hard to achieve the strategic objectives led to being asked to move from human resources into a business role in the company, ultimately aligning my profession with my passion for serving my community,” says Toll, who continued that path for 15 years.

Today, as chief administrative officer at Mercy Care, Toll leads a team of individuals supporting its community reinvestment activities, community relations, strategic planning, marketing communications and the project management office.

“I am passionate about improving the health and wellness of the most vulnerable people in our community,” Toll says. “At Mercy Care, which provides access to physical and behavioral health care services for Medicaid-eligible families, children, seniors, and individuals with developmental disabilities, I am able to do just that.”

Among those Toll and Mercy Care serves are members who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (AHCCCS).

“We do this through our dual-eligible special needs plan called Mercy Care Advantage,” Toll says.

She also serves as plan administrator for its contract with the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Within the community, notably she is a member of Dignity Health’s Community Benefit and Health Equity Committee and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) Health Innovation Committee.

A married mother of two, Toll joined the Arizona March of Dimes executive board in 2017 and became board chair in January. March of Dimes is a leader in the fight for the health of all moms and their babies.

“I joined the board to help improve maternal and child health outcomes in Arizona and to support women through pregnancy, especially when there are complications and loss,” Toll says. “I am honored to work alongside moms, families, advocates and Arizona business leaders to support the health of moms and babies.”

This year, Toll is eager to begin work on a collaboration with the March of Dimes, funded by a $35,000 grant from Mercy Care, focused on supportive pregnancy care (SPC).  SPC is an evidence-based, group prenatal care model that brings pregnant individuals together for prenatal care with their obstetric providers. SPC may be delivered in person or via telehealth.

Reports show that group prenatal care can reduce pre-term births by over 33% for participants of all races and ethnicities and more than 41% for Black participants. Ultimately, these improved health outcomes have the potential to save millions of dollars in U.S. health care costs by reducing pre-term birth rates and NICU admissions.

“The program addresses medical factors and social drivers of health in a flexible and culturally relevant manner,” Toll says.

“During group sessions, participants take and record their own vital signs; receive a private physical assessment from their provider; support each other; and gain knowledge and skills related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum and infant care.”

March of Dimes Arizona will host Heroes in Action (formerly March of Dimes Arizona Nurse of the Year Awards) on September 14 at Chateau Luxe. On November 14, March of Dimes and Talking Stick Resort will host “Signature Chefs,” a fundraising event that will feature culinary creations from Arizona chefs.

On top of this partnership and volunteer work, Mercy Care has an impressive community reinvestment program and supports more than 125 community events each year, providing thousands of employee volunteer hours across Arizona as well, including many from Toll.

“I am also proud of the work our team at Mercy Care is doing to support addiction recovery, housing, school-based services, food insecurity and pandemic support,” Toll says.

Its community reinvestments over the last three years are close to $6 million.

“Mercy Care brings an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of the members and families we serve by partnering with community organizations that address social determinants of health,” she says.

Mercy Care’s Community Reinvestment program funds organizations that improve the health and well-being of children, individuals and families, enabling them to live independently, permanently and safely in their communities.

“Our support also includes both financial investments and grants for organizations including Save the Family, Teen Lifeline, Valle del Sol, Activate Food Arizona, Arizona Home Matters, Barrow Neurological Institute, Area Agency on Aging, ACCEL, Hushabye Nursery, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Pinnacle Prevention and Sonoran Prevention Works,” Toll says.

Toll and Mercy Care are also huge supporters of Special Olympics of Arizona.

According to Toll, Mercy Care’s partnership with Special Olympics of Arizona started with a $10,000 grant for the 2010-11 Summer Games. Since then, Mercy Care’s support has continued to grow, providing more than $200,000 in financial assistance, delivering more than 19,000 free health screenings, training more than 1,000 health professionals and students to educate and treat people with intellectual disabilities, and offering more than 3,400 employee volunteer hours.

“Most recently, Mercy Care served as presenting sponsor for Special Olympics of Arizona’s Return to Activities Initiative, providing education and supplies to all members of the Special Olympics Arizona community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure a safe return when in-person sports and activities resume,” Toll says. 

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