One of our priorities over the last 3.5 years has been to ensure that we develop and train our workforce so that we maintain business continuity and have the ability to transition effectively to new leadership when the time comes (part of Strategic Map element E1).  We’ll be putting our prep work to the test in the coming weeks- as Dr. Nelson will be leaving her posts as Deputy for Behavioral Health and as Chief Medical Officer on August 24 to work at Mercer.  But by keeping our strong behavioral health team together- we’ll continue to keep up our momentum and continue delivering high quality behavioral health services for the people we serve. 

Under Dr. Nelson’s leadership, we’ve shifted the Department’s behavioral health system to focus on the core principles of Recovery and have adopted outcome-based performance measures to monitor and to improve the performance of Arizona’s behavioral health system, resulting in real and measurable improvements in people’s lives.  We’ve re-focused our efforts at the Arizona State Hospital to improve the quality of care for our patients and families, incorporating a Culture of Care that improves our performance every day. 

 Dr. Nelson is well recognized throughout the entire behavioral health system as a dynamic and competent leader and will surely be missed.  She’s even developed a solid national reputation, most recently receiving the President’s Award from the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors.  We all know that about her – but it sure is nice to hear that type of praise on a national stage.  It reminds us that we are lucky to have someone with her skills advocating for those with mental illness in Arizona. 

I have to admit that I’m a little bit misty as I write this- as I think back to what Dr. Nelson and I have been through together (and what we’ve achieved as an Agency) since we started our quest together back in January of ’09.  Believe me, I know it’s hard to lose leadership like this…  but we’ll continue with our mission as a team.  Anytime an organization loses leadership as strong as Laura it’s a challenge…  but it can also be an opportunity for growth.