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Consultant for behavioral health agency nominated as head

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The former CEO of a Rhode Island hospital who has been consulting with the state's behavioral health department has been nominated to lead the agency.

On Wednesday, Gov. Dan McKee nominated Richard Charest, the former president and CEO of Landmark Medical Center, to head the state's Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, the Providence Journal reported.

Charest has been consulting with the agency since last August about the management and operations of Eleanor Slater Hospital, which cares for long-term psychiatric patients who also have medical needs, the newspaper reported.

The state’s Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones has been temporarily overseeing the agency since the resignation of the former director Kathryn Power last month.

The governor asked Jones to conduct a review of the hospital’s operations, staffing and patient care standards. It has come under fire over a downsizing plan that critics say has led to the discharge of patients with few or no care alternatives.

Charest was CEO of the Woonsocket-based Landmark Medical Center when it was sold to a for-profit, California-based hospital system in 2013. The hospital was under receivership at the time of the sale. Charest remained as CEO and oversaw major investments in the hospital building as well as hiring new staff and raising the pay of union and nonunion workers, the newspaper reported.

“We have an opportunity to make meaningful change to a critical state department that is decades overdue,” Charest said Wednesday.

McKee will submit his nomination to the Senate for confirmation, the newspaper reported.

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