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New CEO emphasizes community integration

November 1, 2009
by Brian Albright
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Jess jamiesonAs the new CEO of Western State Hospital in Tacoma, Wash., Jess Jamieson believes the facility should play a key role in the state's public mental health system, and hopes to promote both inter-agency cooperation and public outreach this year.

Jamieson was selected to lead the facility in May. He takes the helm of the largest psychiatric hospital in the state, with a staff of nearly 2,000 and a patient population of approximately 1,000. “Historically, here and in other states, the state hospitals are often outside of the mainstream of the public mental health system,” Jamieson says. “We want to be actively involved as a central component of the statewide system.”

The hospital has, for example, instituted best practices so that when patients are discharged they have a treatment plan to ensure continuity of care as they re-enter the community. “We want to make certain that they are re-integrated back into the community in a stable fashion,” Jamieson says.

“We also want to tell our story to the broader community,” he adds. “The community at large does not really know all of the good things that happen in this facility. We need to get out there, tell our story and advocate for the services we provide.”

In light of the budget crunch facing the state, Jamieson has also tasked his staff with improving efficiency. “We want to maintain the quality of care we provide while making sure our business practices support those services as efficiently as possible,” he says. “If we have to make a workforce reduction, we're looking at areas that will have the least impact on patient care.”

Jamieson (a two-term veteran of Western State's advisory board) brings with him a broad range of administrative experience. He graduated from the University of Wyoming in 1960, earned a masters in healthcare administration from Des Moines University, followed by a doctorate in social foundations at the University of Iowa.

Previously, he served as CEO of Alliance Behavioral Health Care in Everett, as president and CEO of COMPASS Health near Seattle from 1995 to 2007, and as acting CEO of Community Mental Health Services in Mount Vernon from 2001 to 2002. He was also Associate Director for the Department of Psychiatry at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines and program coordinator with San Joaquin County Mental Health Services in Stockton, Calif. In addition, he has served on the faculty of the School of Social Work at the University of Washington.

One of his proudest accomplishments was assisting with a project in Cambodia to rebuild that war-torn nation's psychiatric infrastructure in the 1990s. “When Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were in power, they literally exterminated all of the professionals in the country,” Jamieson says. “I first went there in 1995 to help establish a program and train the first cohort of psychiatrists that would be available throughout the country. When I got there, there was literally one psychiatrist for all of Cambodia.”

Jamieson says he was impressed with the resiliency of the Cambodian people, despite the hardships they had endured. “The people were motivated and eager to get on with their lives,” he says. “They set a new standard for resiliency. It was like the whole country had to make this journey together.

“I've always been interested in working with people,” he continues, “particularly people who were disadvantaged or had issues that put them outside of the mainstream. I'm proud I have had the opportunity to build systems of care that directly address people with those disorders and disabilities. I am also proud that I've been able to advocate in my own way to increase the resources made available for those in need.”

Behavioral Healthcare 2009 November-December;29(10):37