Corinth Today Editorial
There are concerns about the current executive director situation at Region IV Mental Health Services based in Corinth.
The taxpayer-funded agency, which provides substance abuse and mental health services to five counties, is currently without an executive director.
The Region IV board recently appointed Jason Ramey of Booneville as the interim executive director after Charlie Spearman Sr. of Booneville retired in June.
Region IV Board Chairman Greg Collier said the board has not advertised the executive director position and that Mr. Ramey is the only person being considered for the job at this time.
It seems that it would be a good idea to open up the important position to competition to see who might apply. If the job were publicly advertised there may be a number of people with many credentials in the mental health field apply.
This is not a knock against Mr. Ramey and the experience he brings to the table. It just begs the question as to why the Region IV board would not even consider other candidates for a position of this stature and importance. Region IV board members are appointed by the boards of supervisors from Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah, DeSoto and Tishomingo counties.
What would be the harm in advertising the position?
Mr. Ramey could very well be the best person for the job. We have found him to be nice, approachable and professional when we have spoken with him in person and on the phone.
Mr. Ramey has been associated with the mental health business for more than 13 years. Prior to coming to Region IV in 2016, he said he ran the inpatient psychiatric unit for geriatric patients for Horizon Health at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Booneville. With Horizon, he also traveled throughout the United States to help establish psychiatric programs and train directors. He was also a master instructor for the company’s crisis intervention program.
But it is unclear if his educational background with a master’s in business administration qualifies him to be an executive director of a community mental health center like Region IV. Under Department of Mental Health Operational Standards, an executive director should have a minimum of a master’s degree in mental health or a related field to ensure agency funding and certification.
Mr. Ramey could not be reached for comment to determine whether he planned on going back to school to obtain additional education.
But Region IV Chairman Collier said it was very possible that Ramey could go back to school if needed. The Region IV board can take as long as it wants to appoint a full-time director, Collier said. That would presumably give Mr. Ramey time to get additional education.
But if Mr. Ramey is not qualified at this time, should Region IV and the taxpayers of five counties wait for him to get the needed credentials? If Mr. Ramey is not qualified right now, other people are. Why not advertise the position and see if they apply?
Our region has major mental health and substance abuse problems that need to be addressed today. There are a lot of hurting people in Alcorn County and the surrounding area. There have been suicides and drug overdoses. The agency has already been without a full-time executive director for more than four months.
Developmental disabilities such as autism are also very important.
Mental health has come to the national forefront in recent years as an issue that needs serious attention. President Donald Trump pointed to the country’s mental health problems when he discussed the recent Texas church shooting that left 26 people dead. There are drug epidemics related to methamphetamine and opioids.
Another problem with not advertising the position is that it could create the wrong and unintended image. You see, Mr. Ramey’s mom, Judy Ramey, is a former Region IV board member, and his wife works for the agency as a case manager. There is no indication that Mr. Ramey is getting special treatment, but the position should be advertised to at least eliminate any potential appearance of that.
If multiple people apply, Mr. Ramey could very well get the job given his more than 13 years working in the mental health business.
Corinth Today reached out to other community mental health centers in Mississippi and obtained the educational background of their executive directors. Ricado Fraga, who is the executive director of the community mental health center based in Tupelo, has two master’s degrees— one in mental health and one in rehabilitation. Fraga is also a licensed professional counselor in Mississippi and a nationally certified counselor.
Sherlene Vince, the executive director in McComb, has a master’s degree in social work, and Maurice Kahlmuf, executive director in Meridian, has a master’s degree in counseling and has worked as a therapist. Dave Van, executive director of the Brandon-based center, has a master’s degree in counseling and is a nationally licensed marriage and family therapist.
Indeed, Ramey brings an impressive list of credentials with the combination of a business education and experience working in a mental health setting. Having an understanding of business would clearly be beneficial to an agency such as Region IV, which has revenue of some $25 million and several hundred employees.
But the Region IV board members should do their due diligence and consider other candidates as well. The Region IV website has a page that advertises other job openings in the agency. Why not this one?
The Region IV board should be praised for taking its time before naming a full-time executive director. But it should use that time wisely and evaluate a full field of candidates.
State statute says mental health board members are to “promote the general mental health of the people of the region.”
Without considering other candidates for the Region IV executive director we’re not sure they are fulfilling that directive.