News Article Details

Sonoma County taps Napa County mental health director to head behavioral health services

The Press Democrat - 12/4/2018

Dec. 04--Former Napa County mental health director Bill Carter has been tapped to run Sonoma County's behavioral health division, a nearly $100 million agency that was rocked by labor strife and the April resignation of its former director.

Carter, chosen following a competitive recruitment process, directed mental health programs in Napa County for the past four years. Prior to that, he was the agency's compliance officer.

Sonoma County officials touted Carter's 30 years of experience in mental health and social services. Between 1999 and 2010, he served as an administrator for the California Institute for Mental Health.

"I am eager and excited at the opportunity to work in Sonoma County," Carter said in a statement. He could not be reached immediately Tuesday to comment further.

As director of behavioral health services here, Carter will head both mental health and substance abuse services operations. He replaces former behavioral health director Michael Kennedy, who headed the local agency for nearly a decade.

Kennedy, who went on paid administrative leave in early March, resigned from his position in late April after brokering a settlement deal with the county on terms of his exit. His departure followed a monthslong campaign by county health services officials to dramatically reduce mental health and substance abuse staff to narrow budget deficits.

Sources in the local mental health community, including county staff members, said Kennedy opposed many of those staffing cuts. At the time, Barbie Robinson, director of the health services department and Kennedy's boss, said inaccurate revenue projections, increasing costs and declining revenue were the reasons for perennial budget deficits.

After Kennedy's departure, the county's top staff psychiatrist, Michael Kozart, was appointed interim director of mental health services.

Carter comes at a time when the county seeks to fill a major gap in psychiatric emergency services with the development of a psychiatric health facility that would feature secure, inpatient psychiatric beds. No such beds exist in the Sonoma County. Health services officials said they are negotiating with a provider to operate the facility.

You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213 or martin.espinoza@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @renofish.

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(c)2018 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

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