New director seeks change in focus for county mental health program

September 06, 1994|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Sun Staff Writer

The new director of mental health and addictions for Anne Arundel County's health department says he wants to reach out into the community to make sure residents are getting needed services.

"I'd like to see a change in focus, to see us not just be reactive but pro-active," said Dr. Steven R. Katkowsky. "We don't have to wait for people to come to us."

County Health Officer Frances B. Phillips announced last week that Dr. Katkowsky, who had been serving as acting director since July, had been selected for the $51,000-a-year job from a pool of 50 applicants. A five-member search committee started reviewing candidates last May after Dr. Herbert Gross, former director of the division, announced he was retiring.

Dr. Katkowsky, 47, brings to the job diverse experiences, including a background in medicine, mental health, addictions treatment and administration, said Ms. Phillips.

"It's a complicated position," she said. "You need cross experience in both substance abuse and mental health, plus administrative experience. Steve brings to the job experience in all these areas."

Douglas L. Hart, deputy health officer for operations and chairman of the search committee, said Dr. Katkowsky's experience working with many different types of agencies over the past 15 years made him the leading applicant.

"Steve is assured, he's very knowledgeable . . . he is good at consensus-building," Mr. Hart said. "His strength is he does whatever it takes to get the job done. I think we'll see increased efficiency and service in the division."

Dr. Katkowsky will oversee a staff of 150, an annual budget of $6.5 million and numerous programs, including treatment clinics for the mentally ill and substance abusers. The division also includes the county's sexual assault and general crisis hot line program.

One of his priorities, he said, will be to better coordinate the health department's efforts with those of the many private, nonprofit organizations that offer services to mentally ill or addicted clients.

In the past, community activists serving on advisory boards in these areas have complained that a lack of coordination has resulted in substandard service, with many needy residents not getting the help they need.

Dr. Katkowsky said he also would work closely with the county's new independent Mental Health Agency to develop missing services, such as a program for mentally ill inmates at the county Detention Center.

He said the county also is looking at creating a program for people convicted of drunken driving. The program, which would focus on counseling, could be used instead of other types of sentences for certain offenders, he said.

A 1987 graduate of Ross University School of Medicine in New York, Dr. Katkowsky also did graduate work in criminal justice at the University of Maryland and received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Baltimore in 1970.

He has worked as a respiratory therapist for South Baltimore General Hospital (now Harbor Hospital) and as an investigator preparing sentencing recommendations for Baltimore Circuit Court.

He also served as assistant administrator for the Domestic Relations Division of the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court from 1975 to 1981. In that job, he directed an investigations unit that enforced court orders for domestic cases.

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