GALLIPOLIS — As July 1 marked the beginning of the new fiscal year for the state, the Gallia-Jackson-Meigs Board of Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services announced the appointment of their new executive director.
Robin Harris will continue the mission of her late friend and colleague, Ron Adkins.
Adkins served as the previous executive director and passed away in April. His death left colleagues stunned but continuing on with their mission of bringing quality behavioral healthcare to their service area.
The board met on their regular meeting June 20 and named Harris as the new executive director after unanimous vote. Harris had served as Adkins’ deputy director and as the interim director previously.
“The sudden loss of Ron Adkins was a devastating blow to our staff and board of directors, ” Harris said. “But, in honor of his legacy, we have pulled together and managed to meet this new state fiscal year with all deadlines met for contracts, strategic plans, budgets and so on. This was a virtually impossible task except for the dedication and professionalism of my staff. I cannot say enough about how blessed I am with the staff and board members.”
Harris is from the Rutland area and was born and raised in Meigs County. She graduated from Meigs High School and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Rio Grande, where she majored in psychology; she earned her graduate degree in counseling at Ohio University. She has worked in mental health care systems since 1983.
“I’ve done everything,” Harris said. “I ran a 10-county kids crisis center, served as a case management supervisor of therapeutic foster care networks and just have moved through the system of care and finally over to the (ADAMHS) board. I started with the Family and Children First councils for Gallia, Jackson and Meigs counties back in 1994.”
Harris lauded the continued support from state and local government agencies as well as fellow mental health institutions. Harris said that while rural areas like the Ohio Valley may not be the most financially-resourced areas, it was blessed with people who made quick organizational alliances.
Harris said that before Adkins’ death, the pair had discussed the direction they wished to take the ADAHMS board as the winds of behavioral health legislation in Ohio are changing. The board will focus on a recovery-oriented system of care. Harris said this is making certain a client can “live, work and function in the community. Recovery does not mean cured. It’s being able to sustain a lifestyle of being able to function and live in the community to the best of that person’s ability.” This would mean the ADAHMS board helps agencies help clients with everything from life skills to vocational skills.
“Basically, the short version of this is that the board is statutorily defined as having responsibility to plan, fund and monitor behavioral health systems for the three counties that we serve,” Harris said. “We’re managing, with the inclusion of Medicaid, about a $10 million system of care.”
Harris said that new treatment and recovery supports along with listening to the voices of the board’s coverage area would assist it in changing “the face of mental health and addiction services.” The board intends to increase its presence in the community to assist citizens in accessing behavioral healthcare.
“In preparation for these changes, we have re-organized two staff positions within our office by promoting board secretary Chris Love to office manager and increasing the responsibility and authority of board fiscal officer, Jenny Metts,” said Harris.
Harris said that she and Adkins had already spoken on some of the changes they anticipated coming to the world of behavioral health, she and her team would continue following through with those conversations, keeping in mind the wishes of their late colleague.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.