For Immediate Release - February 08, 2011

Mental Health Commissioner Convenes Safety Task Force

Stakeholder group will assess policies and practices following death of mental health worker

BOSTON - State Mental Health Commissioner Barbara A. Leadholm, MS, MBA, today announced the creation of a task force to assess current policies and practices around safety and training for those who provide and receive Department of Mental Health services in the community. The Department of Mental Health Task Force on Staff and Client Safety was established following the recent death of Stephanie Moulton, a mental health worker based in Revere.

The group will review opportunities for improvements to current practices and policies, while advancing the mission of providing services, support and opportunities for individuals with serious mental illness to live safely, productively and as independently as possible in the community.

"We are committed to worker safety and know that this tragedy has been very traumatic for many workers," said Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "I want to thank the individuals who have agreed to serve on this task force and look forward to receiving the results of their important work. We hope that something beneficial will come out of this tragedy."

DMH and several of its provider partners and peer workers responded in the immediate aftermath by providing crisis counseling and support as needed to North Suffolk Mental Health Association, the staff, consumers, coworkers and many others affected by this tragedy, according to Commissioner Leadholm.

"We must understand the factors in the tragic death of Stephanie Moulton, a dedicated staff member of North Suffolk Mental Health Association," said Commissioner Leadholm. "We mourn her loss and are deeply saddened for her family, friends and coworkers. With the support of the mental health community, we hope to learn how we can ensure the safety of our staff and clients, while continuing to provide opportunities for individuals with serious mental illness to live safely, productively and as independently as possible in the community."

The task force is charged with evaluating specific aspects of the Department's community system, including risk management practices, appropriate access to and utilization of criminal history information (CORI), safety training and safety provision for provider staff, the guardianship process and the issue of mandated community treatment. The group will complete its review within three months and make commendations to the Commissioner for consideration.

"Promoting recovery in an environment that's safe for consumers and staff is the top priority for the Association of Behavioral Healthcare and our members," said task force member Vicker V. Digravio III, President/CEO of the Association for Behavioral Healthcare. "It's important that the task force examine all facets of the publicly-funded mental health system to achieve this goal. That's why I look forward to being part of this comprehensive, deliberative process."

The task force will be co-chaired by retired District Court Judge Paul Healy and Dr. Kenneth L. Appelbaum, Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and Director of Mental Health Policy and Research at the University of Massachusetts Center for Health Policy and Research. Task force members will include representatives of provider organizations, labor unions, advocates, DMH staff, and other stakeholders. Senate President Therese Murray and House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo will each recommend a member of the Senate and the House of Representatives to serve on the task force. A full list of members is below.

Co-chairs

  • Honorable Paul F. Healy, Jr., Retired District Court Judge

  • Kenneth A. Appelbaum, M.D., Professor of Clinical Psychiatry and the Director of Mental Health Policy and Research for the University of Massachusetts Center for Health Policy and Research

Members

  • Tina Adams, Ph.D., DMH Central Office, Manager of Juvenile Forensic Services
  • Matthew Broderick, DMH North County Site Director
  • Jonathan Delman, JD, MPH, Executive Director, Consumer Quality Initiatives
  • Vicker V. DiGravio III, President/CEO, Association for Behavioral Healthcare
  • Barbara (Babs) Fenby, Ph. D, DMH Northeast-Suburban Area, Director of Community Services
  • Ellen Flowers, Tewksbury Hospital, DMH Hathorne Units, Director of Nursing
  • Phil Hadley, Representative of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts
  • John Labaki, SEIU 509 Chapter President representing the Department of Mental Health
  • Nancy Mahan, Director of Mental Health Services, Bay Cove Human Services Inc
  • Regina Marshall, J.D., DMH Chief of Staff
  • Ira Packer, Ph.D., ABPP (Forensic), Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at University of Massachusetts Medical School and Director, Mobile Forensic Evaluation Service, DMH Central-West Area, central region
  • Derri Shtasel, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Adult Ambulatory Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital (Massachusetts Psychiatric Society)
  • Eva Skolnik-Acker, LICSW, National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
  • Jessel Paul Smith, Young Adult Consumer Advocate
  • Marilyn Wellington, Esq., Executive Director, Board of Bar Examiners
  • Michael Weekes, President/CEO, The Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc.
  • Anne Whitman, Ph.D., President, Jonathan O. Cole Mental Health Consumer Resource Center Board of Directors
  • Speaker Robert A. DeLeo will recommend a member from the House of Representatives.
  • Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan, Assistant Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means

About the Department of Mental Health (DMH)

Part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, DMH provides services to adults, children and adolescents with long-term or serious mental illness and serious emotional disturbance; provides early and ongoing treatment for mental illness; and conducts research into the causes of and treatments for mental illness. Through state-operated inpatient facilities and community mental health centers and through community services and programs provided by nearly 200 mental health providers, DMH directly serves 21,000 Massachusetts residents, including about 3,500 children and adolescents, with severe and persistent mental illness and serious emotional disturbance.

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