Oregon will look for new mental health chief

From the Oregonian, September 11 2008

Bob Nikkel, assistant director of the state’s Addictions and Mental Health Division, has agreed to take on a new role at the Department of Human Services. Starting Monday, Nikkel will fill a newly created job intended to better integrate physical and mental health care throughout the state.

Richard Harris, the retiring executive director of Central City Concern, will become the division’s new interim director while the agency conducts a national search for a permanent replacement. He will begin on Sept. 29.

Central City Concern is a nonprofit that serves adults and families in the Portland area whose lives are affected by mental illness, homelessness, poverty and addictions.

OUR COMMENT – upon reading the Department of Justice report on the Oregon State Hospital, released in January, State Senator Peter Courtney said, “This is among the worst reports I have read in my 24 years of legislative service,” and the Mental Health Association of Portland called for the replacement of ALL STAFF at the Oregon State Hospital. Bob Nikkel knew of the hospital’s shortcomings, failed to respond publicly to the Department of Justice report, and seemingly failed to launch quick change once the problems were revealed.

Richard Harris is perhaps the only public health administrator both willing and able to take on this vast and complicated job. His recruitment is the first smart move we’ve seen by Bruce Goldberg who has been chief of DHS since 2005. We wish Richard great luck.

EXTRA – read the Department of Justice report on the Oregon State Hospital – (2.6 MB PDF) – January 2008