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2013 Behavioral Healthcare Champions

August 2, 2013
by Dennis Grantham, Editor-In-Chief, and Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Click to view photos of 2013 Champions

These five individuals, from all parts of the United States, represent not only their agencies, but some of the leading professional organizations in the field, including the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), the Mental Health Corporations of America (MHCA), the National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Directors (NACBHDD), and the National Council for Behavioral Health.

Our 2013 Champions were selected from among dozens of outstanding nominees because, in some special or notable way, they reflect the special brand of dedication, courage, inspiration, and excellence that makes the leaders of behavioral health organizations unique.  For the first time, our Champions include the executive director of a consumer-operated service.

The profiles you’ll see in the following pages represent our efforts to tell a little bit of each Champion’s story, the important and unusual challenges that each faced, the actions that they took, and the lessons that they learned—or taught—along the way. We hope you’ll enjoy reading these profiles as much as we did writing them.

In addition to the profiles here, we look forward to recognizing these Champions personally in an awards luncheon on Sunday, September 22. These honors will be just a small part of the National Conference on Addiction Disorders (NCAD)—and the co-located —which will be held from Sept. 21-25 at the Anaheim Marriott in Anaheim, California. You’re cordially invited to join us at this unique gathering of clinical, managerial, technical and leadership talent.

And, before anymore is said about this year’s Champions, let us repeat what they told us. Their honor is only a reflection of countless others—staff members, professionals, peers, boards, donors, colleagues, and communities like yours—whose remarkable efforts, contributions, and genuine goodwill make the business of treatment and recovery possible.


Terry Crocker
CEO, Tropical Texas Behavioral Healthcare
Edinburg/McAllen/Harlingen/Brownsville, Texas (Serving the Rio Grande Valley)

When Terry Crocker set out to find a career, he had two goals in mind: not to be bored, and to make a difference in people’s lives. Now, looking back at a career of thirty years (and counting) in behavioral health, he says that the field has fit both of those requirements perfectly.

Terry knew very early in life that he would find happiness in the behavioral healthcare field. His mother worked at a private psychiatric hospital and helped him get a job at the facility right out of high school. That hands-on experience, coupled with “an excellent psychology instructor,” Dr. Harvey Ginsberg at Texas State University, “hooked me on wanting to work in the field,” he explains.

Terry continued his education into graduate school, earning a master’s degree in psychology. Soon after, he was hired as a psychologist at what was then the Texas Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation (TDMHMR).

Within a few years, Terry was promoted to unit director of a 110-bed severe behavior disorder unit. But soon thereafter, he realized that “with no formal management training, I was going to need further education if I was going to be effective and stay in administration in the behavioral health field.” So, the psychologist earned an MBA as well.

Terry’s tenure as CEO of Tropical Texas Behavioral Health (TTBH) began in 2003, at a time when the organization was literally struggling for its life: six previous CEOs had come and gone in the previous seven years, the agency’s local reputation was badly damaged, and just five days of operating cash reserves remained. Worse, the agency faced a $1.5 million shortfall that threatened to wreck its Fiscal 2004 budget, a budget that was due for approval shortly.

Though the agency’s problems were known throughout the state, Terry saw this new position as an opportunity. It was a chance to try some of the things he’d learned but had yet to try; a chance to see if he could help to make a difference. Only time would tell.

After establishing a new executive team and implementing a host of other major changes throughout the past ten years, TTBH is today a success story. Currently, the agency has more than 120 days operating reserves; its cost-per-patient has dropped by 42% for mental health consumers and 62% for intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) consumers; its third-party billings have increased by over 1000%; and the agency has added more than 100,000 square feet of new building space. The organization has also developed strong community partnerships with law enforcement, emergency rooms, school districts, and other health-service organizations. Most important, Terry says, is the fact that TTBH has expanded its capability to serve the community, growing from serving about 11,000 people in 2003 to serving more than 21,000 people this year.

Vital to the agency’s transformation was a paradigm shift, Terry explains. Prior to his appointment, Terry perceived that “staff were trying to be everything to the consumers and patients that they served. This was certainly an admirable goal, but it is not a viable business model.”