Oregon’s behavioral health director, Royce Bowlin, is retiring at the end of June. Bowlin started the job 19 months ago.

Some people say the constant turnover in the position is short-changing people with mental illness.

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Kevin Fitts is with the Oregon Mental Health Consumers Association. He said 19 months is not long enough to learn what’s going on, to build solid relationships and to effect large changes.

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“We seem to, in the state of Oregon, be going through mental health directors quite at a rapid clip," Fitts said. "I think the average tenancy for someone in that position is somewhere between 18 and 36 months for the last 10 years.”

Fitts said that’s unacceptable.

“Having strong, clear, visible leadership that is there and stays around for a while is imperative to address the issues that folks have in the community,” he said.

The Oregon Health Authority issued a statement saying fragmentation has made it harder to manage mental health programs. But that the next behavioral health director will bring mental health and substance abuse programs back together so they’re more accountable to consumers, providers and the communities in which they operate.

The statement also said:

This change will improve coordination in our agency, strengthen collaboration with treatment providers and deliver better services to the more than 1 in 6 Oregonians who need mental health treatment.

Approximately 200,000 Oregonians use mental health and addiction services through the Oregon Health Authority every year.

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