By CBS 62 staff

Tom Watkins, former state school superintendent and mental health director for Michigan, has been tapped to take over the top job of the newly named Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Authority by the organization’s board.

Watkins was appointed president, CEO and executive director of the public mental health system that serves Detroit and Wayne County. He will help the agency as it transitions into an authority effective Oct. 1.

The Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency is currently a Wayne County agency.  It will be converted into an authority  similar to the Wayne County Airport Authority on Oct. 1.

That authority will be run by a 12-member board. Six members will be appointed by the mayor of Detroit (or state appointed emergency manager), and six will be appointed by the Wayne County Board of Commissioners.

Watkins will report to the board.

The Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency currently serves over 72,000 consumers and  provides services for people with mental illness, developmental disabilities, serious emotional disturbance and substance use disorders.

“I’m excited to be working with a dedicated board and staff to provide high quality care  and support to people who are mentally ill and developmentally disabled,” Watkins said Monday.

“There exist a network of capable and competent provider organizations throughout the city and county dedicated to providing high quality care to persons with mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities we will work with them to enhance quality and to maximize limited public resources,” he said.

“It  does not matter what zip code you live in –mental illness, substance abuse and developmental disabilities impacts all families directly or indirectly. The  Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Authority and it capable provider agencies stand ready to help,” Watkins said.

D-WCCMHA officials said Watkins was chosen because of his unique background of leadership roles in  politics, legislative and business all while  focusing on  helping give a voice to those living with disabilities.

“I am looking forward to working with Mr. Watkins and the passion he brings for helping people overcome the obstacles they may face in life,” said George Gaines, chair of the D-WCCMHA board.

“Over the years, Watkins has used his life experiences to help others across our community, the state and as far away as China,” Gaines added.

“We are very pleased with the selection of Tom Watkins to lead this new authority in Wayne County given his extensive background in health care,” said James  Haveman, Director of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

“The wealth of knowledge and experience that Tom brings will be valuable as he works to bring better services to residents in Wayne County and to ensure they are receiving the best quality of care possible,” Haveman added.

Watkins has been CEO of TDW & Associates, a global consulting and education business focusing on the U.S. and China.

He previously served as deputy director of administration, chief deputy and director of the state department of mental Haelth under former Gov. Jim Blanchard. He was responsible for re-accrediting hospitals serving persons with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities and known for his consumer and family focus.

Watkins was also the state school superintendent of Michigan from 2001- 2005.

Watkins served as an elected member of the Wayne County Charter Commission, chairing the legislative committee in the early 1980s.


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