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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
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Monday, July 30, 2007

Bigby names new DMH commissioner

JudyAnn Bigby, state secretary of Health and Human Services, today named new commissioners of the Department of Mental Health and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind and a new director of Medicaid.

Barbara Leadholm will return to the mental health agency after 10 years in the private sector as a vice president at Magellan Health Services, a company that manages behavioral health care for large health plans. At the Department of Mental Health, she was assistant commissioner for policy and planning from 1990 to 1993 and then Metro South Area director until 1996.

In a joint interview, Bigby and Leadholm sounded the same theme of integrating services for medical and behavioral health Ė a term Leadholm said she prefers to "mental health" because it includes problems such as substance abuse. They also said distinctions between private and public insurance are not as important as building a coherent system of care.

"Barbaraís background brings a special combination of experience that will serve us and the Department of Mental Health well as we look at strategies for optimizing services and ensuring quality, looking at the type of outcomes that we want to see that really focus on the individual, not just on mental illness," Bigby said. "We want to ensure that we have a unified set of standards and principles."

Leadholm had previously worked at the former Department of Welfare as director of chronic and specialty hospitals, director of CommonHealth and special populations, and provider manager for mental health and mental retardation. She holds a master's degree in psychiatric nursing from Boston College and an MBA from Boston University.

"Iíve got about 30 years of experience working both in the public sector as well as the private sector. That allows me to have a broad perspective," Leadholm said. "We want to look at how we can work together to make sure the system makes sense for more people. Itís very confusing for anyone who has a child with a serious emotional issue or a family facing schizophrenia for the first time. I donít think it matters whether you have private insurance or whether you look to the state for assistance."

Bigby also appointed Janet LaBreck head of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, where she has worked for 22 years, the last six as regional director for Central Massachusetts. Before then she was a vocational rehabilitation counselor and an independent living coordinator. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Massachusetts-Boston and a master's in education at Springfield College.

Thomas Dehner, who has been acting director of Medicaid since January 2006, has been named director. He is responsible for MassHealth, the state's Medicaid plan, and its $8 billion budget.

He had been deputy Medicaid director and before that chief of staff for the state Division of Medical Assistance. From 1999 through 2003 he was deputy general counsel for the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.

Posted by Elizabeth Cooney at 05:07 PM
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