OSH superintendent candidate names revealed

From the Salem Statesman Journal, July 23, 2010

The three candidates who interviewed this week for the top leadership job at the Oregon State Hospital oversee state-run psychiatric hospitals in New Jersey, Alaska and Arizona, the Statesman Journal learned today.

The candidates are: Gregory Roberts, assistant director for the Office of State Hospital Management in New Jersey; Ron Adler, CEO of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute; and John Cooper, CEO of the Arizona State Hospital.

The names of the three OSH superintendent candidates were provided to the newspaper this morning by a participant in Tuesday’s candidate interviews in Salem.

Richard Harris, director of the state Addictions and Mental Health Division, subsequently confirmed the information this afternoon.

State officials previously had declined the newspaper’s request for release of the candidates names and resumes, citing the need to protect their current employment.

Harris said he contacted all three candidates to inform them that their names had been leaked to the newspaper.

“I wanted them to have a heads up,” he said. “They’re all aware of it now, so the prohibition against not revealing their names is sort of a moot point.”

On Monday, the three candidates toured the hospital campus in central Salem. On Tuesday, they answered questions posed to them by four rotating panels. The interviews occurred at the headquarters of the state Department of Human Services.

The panels were charged with ranking the candidates and evaluating each person’s strengths and weaknesses.

Selection of a top candidate is expected soon. After that choice is made, Harris said, a vetting process will focus on contacting people familiar with the prospect’s track record, including leaders of mental health advocacy groups, key legislators, co-workers and others.

If the inquiries go well, Harris said, contract negotiations will ensue.

A timetable outlined by Harris calls for a negotiated contract to be completed by the end of August and the new superintendent assuming the post by the end of September.

All three candidates made favorable impressions during Tuesday’s interviews, said Robert Joondeph, executive director of Disability Rights Oregon, an advocacy group that monitors patient care at the state hospital.

Joondeph served on the interview panels. He did not leak the names of the candidates to the newspaper.
“I thought they had three very experienced, qualified candidates, and each would bring something a little different to the job,” he said.

Joondeph said one candidate rose above the other two, but he did not specify which person he thought emerged as the front-runner.

“I think in terms of the interviewers, there’s kind of a consensus, but we’ll wait and see,” he said.

The search for a new hospital leader began on the heels of the April 2 forced resignation of superintendent Roy Orr.

Orr was forced out by state human services director Bruce Goldberg and Harris. They said new leadership was necessary to speed up the pace of change at OSH.

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has strongly criticized patient care and hospital conditions during an ongoing, four-year investigation of OSH.