2009 Behavioral Health Champions.
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Health services administrators (Achievements and awards)
Pub Date: 11/01/2009
Publication: Name: Behavioral Healthcare Publisher: Vendome Group LLC Audience: Academic; Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry; Psychology and mental health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 Vendome Group LLC ISSN: 1931-7093
Issue: Date: Nov-Dec, 2009 Source Volume: 29 Source Issue: 10
Product: Product Code: 8048000 Medical Administrators NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Persons: Named Person: Van Camp, John; Pfromm, Elizabeth; Joseph, George P.
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 230438295
Full Text: There are a lot of terrific people working in the community behavioral health field, often under demanding or trying circumstances. Beyond the needs of consumers and clients, there's a continuing backdrop of funding cuts, uncertainties about reform, and the need to understand and apply an ever-growing, every-changing body of professional knowledge. It's not a field for the faint of heart.

Our 2009 Champions have "come up" through the field of behavioral healthcare with all of its challenges, difficulties, and occasional rewards. This trajectory has enabled them to blend a thorough understanding of clinical, client, community, and social issues with the unique, often intangible, qualities required to take on leadership roles.

Please join in honoring our fifth annual group of Behavioral Health Champions, whose organizations and impacts have been felt in the lives of toddlers and children, teenagers and young adults, troubled and homeless veterans, and all who struggle with serious mental illness or substance addiction:

John Van Camp--President and CEO, Southwest Solutions, Inc.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Pfromm, MS, MPA--President and CEO, Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic

George P. Joseph, LCDC--CEO, The Right Step/Spirit Lodge

J. Michael Armstrong, MA, MBA--CEO, Community Hope, Inc.

David W. Hillis, FACHE, FACATA--President and CEO, AdCare Hospital of Worcester, Inc.

Anthony Zipple, ScD, MBA--CEO, Thresholds

To a person, these six individuals deeply appreciate the importance of mentors, colleagues, board members, civic leaders, friends, and family in their work. The appreciation these Champions have earned in return is reflected not only in the many nominations and comments we received on their behalf, but, we hope, in the all-too-brief profiles that follow.

MORE ONLINE: To read about past years champions, visit www.behavioral.net/champions. To nominate an individual as a 2010 Champion, visit www.behavioral.net/championform. And, don't forget to visit the organizational websites of our Champions, listed throughout the text.

John Van Camp

In 1973, John Van Camp, still a graduate student, began work as a community organizer at the Southwest Crisis Center, a tiny, grant-funded mental health agency founded by working-class residents of southwest Detroit. The son of two social activists--his mother a founding member of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, his father a contemporary of Walter Reuther--Van Camp instinctively appreciated the center's mission.


"What compelled me was how the stigma of mental illness led to the abrogation of civil rights," recalls Van Camp. "The center was a place where an activist, concerned about social justice, could make a difference."

And what a difference! Today, Southwest Solutions has grown into not one, but two large organizations. One is a community mental health and wellness corporation that provides mental health, crisis, juvenile justice, supported housing, and family literacy services to thousands of Detroit residents. The second is a real-estate and economic-development corporation that has done over $100 million in development tax credits, renovated two dozen abandoned apartment buildings, rehabbed 40,000 sq. ft.--and counting--of commercial business space, and advocated for thousands of homeowners threatened by foreclosure. From a $200,000 budget and 10 staff in 1972, Southwest Solutions, Inc. has grown to employ 300 individuals with an annual budget exceeding $23 million.

For Van Camp, the organization's structure reflects its complex community. "We did a survey in the late '70s and found problem one for our clients was a lack of affordable or low-income housing. We asked around, 'Who's doing this? Who wants to do this?' But there was no one. We couldn't walk away, so we jumped in."

The group began slowly by renovating abandoned apartment buildings to create housing for clients. Then, it looked at affordable housing for working-class residents. Often, they found that ground-floor spaces could be renovated for commercial uses. Each site became a place where residents could thrive, but crime could not. Recognizing that housing alone doesn't make a community, "we began looking at everything else--economic development, transportation, education, business development," Van Camp says.

Recent projects involve a $20 million building rehab to create a 150-unit apartment complex for homeless veterans. Another involves conversion of a 50,000 sq. ft., Albert Kahn-designed cigar factory into an integrated primary care/behavioral health wellness center.

"You begin to see that most problems in society are so complex that they're beyond the reach of any one agency or government program. But you can become a player in the community by partnering with others to address them. In the end, you learn that a healthy community is a far more enduring safety net."

Position: President and CEO

Organization: Southwest Solutions, Inc.

Location: Detroit, Michigan (www.swsol.org)

Services: Behavioral healthcare, juvenile justice, family literacy, supportive housing for the homeless, residential and commercial development, community organizing, property management, Housing Opportunity Center, and Center for Working Families.

Staff: 300

Elizabeth "Betsy" Pfromm, MS, MPA

As a first-grade teacher, Betsy Pfromm saw that "there were at least five or six kids in my class who were really having problems--not able to pay attention, constantly disruptive, struggling to learn, even explosive. And back then, in the 70s, there was no special help available. I looked at those kids and I wanted to do things differently, to give them a better start in life."


Nineteen years later, as a newly minted Harvard MPA, she found her chance when a friend, Roy Marshall, asked her to "talk" to David Hirsch, board chairman at LA's Child Guidance Clinic. When Pfromm was reluctant to head west, even for an interview, Hirsch flew east to meet her. He convinced her to "come and see what we're doing." She jokes: "I did. And, I stayed."

Early on, Pfromm confronted a familiar problem: kids in trouble. But these kids, growing up in south and central LA, were typically older (14 to 16), already suspended or expelled from school, and often involved in the juvenile justice system. "While these young people needed and received a lot of Clinic services," says Pfromm, "sadly their prospects looked pretty dim." Worse, she and her board recognized that intensive services for a few, older children left the Clinic short of resources that could help reach high-risk children sooner to improve their future outcomes.

"If you talk to parents and caregivers who have a child in jail, the story is often the same: early conduct or emotional problems before age five, often 'triggered' by experiences of poverty, community violence, or abuse." Pfromm and her board of directors realized that these incarcerated youth were "set up" for academic, mental health, substance abuse, and criminal justice problems well before their school years began. Together, they made a strategic decision to invest more--much more--in early intervention programs for very young children.

"In 1990, that was ahead of its time. There wasn't much funding available for children's mental health services," she recalls. But through two capital campaigns totaling $16.5 million, a succession of philanthropic grants, and "an alignment of the stars" that opened up more public funding, the LA Child Guidance Clinic developed model early-childhood intervention programs throughout the 1990s. One Clinic program that garnered national recognition, "Building Blocks," placed behavioral health professionals into preschools to train teachers how to recognize and help preschoolers with early behavioral or emotional problems, then provide targeted interventions to 15 percent of enrolled students. Today the Clinic provides a full array of "0-5" services: a training institute for those who work with at-risk children, a "walk-in" clinic for immediate access to care, a multi-disciplinary assessment program for foster-care children, outpatient and day treatment services, and a training rotation for child psychiatry residents at USC's Keck School of Medicine.

Position: President and CEO

Organization: Los Angeles Child Guidance Clinic

Location: Los Angeles (www.lacgc.org)

Service Area: South and Central Los Angeles

Services: Mental health treatment, early intervention, and prevention services for children, youth, and families delivered through outpatient, school-based, and home visitation programs.

Staff: 194

George P. Joseph, LCDC

George Joseph's path to 28 years of sobriety and recognition as a 2009 Champion began on a dark day in 1981. Following a cocaine arrest, his attorney suggested he enter the Baton Rouge Chemical Dependency Unit, an adolescent inpatient program, and the Power House Extended Care program. At Power House, the counselors noticed Joseph's ability to confront peers in an impactful way and suggested he read a book on becoming a counselor.


"I remember thinking, 'Man, they must really be hard up for help.' I didn't realize it then, but a seed had been planted." Two years later, as a college student, Joseph returned to Power House as a chemical dependency counselor technician. Later, he entered a new counselor training program in Houston, linked to the Parkside Lodge treatment center. He loved the work.

He later joined Parkside Lodge as a counselor and program coordinator for over five years until it closed. Joseph was recruited to The Right Step, a one-location treatment center in January 1994. There, he formed a team that found growth by understanding the needs of an important new payer: managed care. "People fought them, adapted to them, or opted out. We chose to adapt," he explains, noting that managed care providers preferred treatment organizations with four ingredients: excellence, value, multiple levels of care, and multiple locations.

To these, Joseph added another vital ingredient: assurance. Noting that "the first year of recovery is very difficult," The Right Step announced that any self-pay patient who relapsed after completing a 30-day inpatient program could return, as often as needed for one year, "to get back on their feet again." This ingredient has helped sustain growth for The Right Step (now 20 locations) and spawned Spirit Lodge, which attracts patients seeking a more exclusive and personalized treatment experience.

Joseph says that all Right Step/Spirit Lodge patients can count on a large helping of respect. "Coming in, they're so ashamed. Or, they're in denial. So, you've got to build a relationship to get your point across--give them hope and build them up, or work hard at confronting them." Put another way, "with some you're huggin', with others you're kickin' butt. The key to being a good counselor is to find out which is needed when."

Beyond the joy of his own recovery--"I didn't know life could be so good!"--Joseph and his team are sustained by "people who call every year for 20 years to thank us for helping them get sober." Of course, there are the other calls, too: "When we hear about those who don't make it, we remember that recovery is a difficult, sometimes dangerous thing."

Position: CEO

Organization: The Right Step/Spirit Lodge

The Right Step:

Location: Houston, Texas (www.rightstep.com)

Locations: 22 in Texas and New Mexico serving the southwest U.S.

Services: Substance abuse, detox, inpatient, extended care, intensive outpatient, relapse prevention, residential, spiritual.

Staff: 175

Spirit Lodge:

Location: Austin, TX

Services: Substance abuse, co-occurring disorders, detox, holistic, inpatient, relapse prevention, spiritual.

Staff: 25

J. Michael Armstrong, MA, MBA

Though a Vietnam-era Army veteran, Mike Armstrong readily acknowledges that, as a clerk-typist stationed in Brooklyn, he never faced the stress of combat or the sadness of coming home from an unpopular war. But today, decades after the war ended, he and Community Hope, Inc, continue to serve on behalf of hundreds--veterans and civilians alike--seeking to come home through recovery from the trauma of war, institutionalization, substance abuse, and serious or co-occurring mental illness.


"Our mission is to provide housing for people who wouldn't otherwise have it," says Armstrong, explaining that "you can't focus on recovery until you know where you're going to sleep at night." He traces Community Hope's roots to a small group of "founding mothers" who sought to give their children with mental illness a richer, more independent life by establishing several still-thriving group homes in the mid-1980s.

During Armstrong's ten-plus years leading Community Hope, the group's residential programs have expanded six-fold, comprising 40 locations and serving 300 individuals daily, primarily in New Jersey's four northern counties. Thanks to the group's effectiveness in building awareness and raising funds, its programs have continually branched out. Its leading programs include:

Hope for Veterans, which serves 95 honorably-discharged veterans with mental health or substance abuse diagnoses and provides up to two years of housing with case management services, recovery support, and employment training.

Transitional Housing and Supportive Living, which provides support services for young adults and individuals in group home and independent-living settings.

CHAMP and Partnership Programs, which offer those discharged after long periods of hospitalization a chance to transition through residential housing on the grounds of the institution as a first step toward community reintegration.

Despite the constant pressure of declining funds and increasing needs, Armstrong and Community Hope remain energized. "Our staff knows that we do noble work, but that we don't necessarily get paid a lot for it," he says. "It's a great group of people, which still includes two of our founding mothers. Everyone works well together and are the best at what they do."

Position: CEO

Organization: Community Hope, Inc.

Location: Parsippany, New Jersey (www.communityhope-nj.org)

Service Area: New Jersey

Services: Housing and behavioral health services to individuals, including veterans, recovering from mental illness and co-occurring disorders.

Staff: 250

David W. Hillis, FACHE, FACATA

"Some kids grew up as Army brats. I was a hospital brat," jokes David Hillis, recalling a childhood spent with his father, an administrator at a 100-bed, not-for-profit hospital. In 1968, Hillis was named CFO at Doctors Hospital, a privately-owned, 180-bed for-profit hospital in Worcester where he became CEO in 1974.


"My dad and I were peers for about 15 years," he recalls. But their lives as administrators differed a great deal. "Dad had to work with a community board. By the time he taught every committee what it needed to know, the board would be ready to change due to term limits." Hillis found that his small, for-profit management group could make decisions "incredibly fast."

Such speed proved essential in the evolution and survival of the hospital. "When I started as CEO, there were eight hospitals in Worcester--all struggling to diversify--and now there are two." During the '70s, Hillis saw that "addiction treatment programs were springing up everywhere," but that "non-healthcare" people were leading them. Why? "Healthcare is dominated by medical/surgical people, with rules that were very different from those of early recovery programs," says Hillis. That approach just wasn't fast enough to keep pace with the rapid evolution of addiction treatment from long lengths of stay covered by health insurance. He says that AdCare's key to success was to "move quickly, but keep our medical capabilities with us."

In 1976, the hospital "converted 10 beds to alcohol treatment, then 20, then 30," he recalls, then added a new drug treatment program. "It was never our intention to 'convert' the hospital."

Yet, as demand for the hospital's addiction treatment services surged, he found that the hospital was being affected by "a very real stigma" about its growing addiction-treatment population. "It got so that our med-surg patients, in some cases, had to produce a surgical scar to prove they were not admitted for substance abuse." By 1984, "we made a decision to convert all of our beds to substance abuse treatment." Hillis suggested a new name, AdCare, with "a" for "alcohol" and "d" for "drug" preceding "care."

True to its heritage, AdCare specializes in addiction treatment, yet remains a licensed, acute-care hospital. This unique blend of capabilities enables it to deliver substance abuse care to virtually any patient, even if they are medically compromised.

Position: President and CEO

Organization: AdCare Hospital of Worcester, Inc.

Location: Worcester, Massachusetts (www.adcare.com)

Service Area: Worcester, Massachusetts, with six outpatient clinics in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Serving New England and New York.

Services: Full range of inpatient (medically managed detox, medically monitored detox, medically managed rehabilitation, medically monitored residential) and outpatient addiction treatment services (observation, ambulatory detox, intensive outpatient treatment, outpatient counseling services) as well as corrections services.

Staff: 456

Anthony Zipple, ScD, MBA

In 1979, Tony Zipple graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a masters in environmental design, but never found an urban planning job. Instead, he got involved in transitioning patients from state hospitals to the care of new CMHCs.


"At the time, the concept was radically new," he recalls. He soon discovered "something extraordinary and deeply rewarding" about working with individuals who had disabling mental illnesses. This interest coalesced at a seminar, "Beyond Institutionalization," taught by Jerry Dincin, the visionary leader of Chicago's Thresholds. And he was hooked.

Soon, Zipple's professional interests brought him to Boston, where, after earning an ScD in psychiatric rehabilitation and working at the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation, Zipple worked 14 years at Vinfen, a prominent Boston-area community service provider. He knew that without good services, life in the community often meant isolation, poverty, homelessness, jail, and living on the margins of society. He was determined to create better options for people with the most severe mental illnesses. "One of the hardest things to learn is that bad things happen to a lot of people. When you have a tough roll of the dice, like a mental illness, you need a lot of help bouncing back, reclaiming your life, and recovering."

As CEO at Thresholds for the past seven years, Zipple leads the organization as it helps thousands find recovery. With Dartmouth University and other academic institutions, foundations, and community groups, he is leading a push through Thresholds Research Institute to create a national center to advance supported employment.

Zipple believes that the key to recovery is to find a source of genuine, personal happiness. He tells of a middle-aged man with heart disease in Thresholds' wellness management and recovery program. "This man could no longer dance, the thing he loved. But, we got him good medical care and nurtured his sense of hope. As he felt better, he began dancing again. Then he found a girlfriend," Zipple adds, "and started thinking about work. He's still got problems, but he's living again. He is getting his life back on his terms: a job, a home, friends, family, and a sense of meaning in his life. That is what recovery means."

Thresholds is working hard to help every member achieve recovery. Its Justice Project has reduced repeat incarcerations and hospitalizations by 85 percent. Its Mothers' Program helps those with serious mental illnesses practice effective parenting. Thresholds' Loren Juhl School helps young people earn high-school diplomas. Its specialized project for people who are deaf and have serious mental illnesses is a national model, while its supported education services help Thresholds members to attend college or even graduate programs. Every day Thresholds' staff help make recovery from mental illness a reality, one life at a time.

Position: CEO

Organization: Thresholds

Location: Chicago, Illinois (www.thresholds.org)

Service Area: Throughout the Chicago, Illinois region

Services: Comprehensive community mental health and psychiatric services, housing, supported employment, forensic ACT, supported education, transitioning youth services, integrated health services, homelessness services, research to develop evidence-based practices.

Staff: 840
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