by Frank Lewis
Recently we noted that when the Cuyahoga County Board of Mental Health and the Board of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Services of Cuyahoga County merge, they'll be headed not by a medical professional but by a career bureaucrat, William Denihan. Well, let the record show that Mr. Denihan has fans.
I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your recent article, discussing the decision to appoint William Denihan Chief of the new ADAMHS Board, effective July 1. As an employee of Recovery Resources, an agency that is dually certified by both the current Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board and the Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services Board of Cuyahoga County, I have had the pleasure of working with both Chief Denihan and Dr. [Russell] Kaye for several years. As a provider in the system, it is my belief that both gentlemen were qualified for the position as head of the merged Board, but, as Dr. Kaye eloquently stated, the selection committee believed that the skills Mr. Denihan brought to the table were what the agency required at this time. As for Bill Denihan being well-connected politically, both Mr. Denihan and Dr. Kaye brought their considerable political connections and savvy to a system that desperately needs advocates and supporters. This worked in favor of the men, women and children we serve who have no one speaking up for them — I consider this a strength.
I do not believe that Chief Denihan will allow substance abuse prevention and treatment services to be overshadowed by the mental health system of care, any more than I believe Dr. Kaye would have allowed the opposite to occur. The bottom line is that we are at perhaps the most critical funding juncture this county has seen in several decades, and without all of us pushing together — from the same side — we will risk losing the safety net we have worked so hard to weave. And who are the real losers in this proposition? Those that need the safety net most of all. This community needs champions right now, and any activity that directs our attention elsewhere is attention misdirected. I implore us to push from the same side.
Debora A. Rodriguez, MRC
President & CEO, Recovery Resources
I am writing in response to the June 17th article in Cleveland Scene, "Elsewhere In Cuyahoga County." [Editor's note: The headline was "Elsewhere in Buyahoga County."] This article seems short on facts and a bit long on character assassination by innuendo — the latter being the more disturbing. Linking Mr. Denihan's selection to head the new ADAMHA Board, to the scandals that have plagued Cuyahoga County public service, without fact, damages Mr. Denihan's reputation; potentially undermines the advancement of the new organization's mission; and imperils the Cleveland Scene's standing as a truthful arbiter of fact.
Mr. Denihan's decades of success as as a manager of large, complex and varied publicly funded systems made him a credible candidate for his eventual selection. As did his years operating the much larger of the two merged entities.
Neither Mr. Denihen nor Dr. Kaye could have operated a County department without having had a relationship with public officials. Those relationships did not automatically disqualify either candidate. In fact, being able to work with them AND myriad other stakeholders was likely seen as endemic to the success of either candidate. In fact, success operating a large publicly funded system is more likely predicated upon good management skills, honesty and a past track record of success, than upon the degree one holds.
Dr. Kaye might well have been as fine a selection as Mr. Denihan. But there is no evidence to sustain the belief that Mr. Denihan received the appointment because he was a "kiss-ass" or bought the position. I am hopeful that if the Cleveland Scene would like to discover why one candidate was chosen over another it could do so through a thorough investigation, speaking to multiple stakeholders with varying viewpoints and then determine the truth. Which in the end is what we expect from both our public employees and local journalists.
Thank you for entertaining these comments.
Adam G. Jacobs, Ph.D.
In the June 17 issue, Scene referred to Bill Denihan as a “well-connected Dem party animal with no direct experience before taking his job at the helm of the county’s mental health board five years ago.”
The truth is that Bill Denihan brings one of the most distinguished careers of public service in the State of Ohio. In a career spanning over forty years Denihan has established a remarkable legacy of positive change, accountability, and efficiency in the many key roles he has held, including Director of Public Safety for the State of Ohio, Director of Public Service and Public Safety for the City of Cleveland, and Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services — too name a few positions. It was Scene magazine five years ago that called Denihan “the most qualified candidate not elected Mayor.” [Editor's note: To be precise, it was eight years ago and the honor was "the best mayor we'll never have." Other Scene coverage of Denihan can be found here (also from 2001) and here (from ’02).]
Bill Denihan has always stood up for good public policy and the best interest of the people, even when it may have been unpopular with the party or the prevailing powers. Denihan has a track record of success wherever he has gone. It was the boards of the two agencies who most recently choose Denihan to lead the consolidation of the mental health and alcohol and drug boards. Nothing against the other candidates, but at the end of the day I suspect that the board members selected the individual whom they thought was best able to lead this new agency charged with the enormous responsibility of addressing the behavioral and mental health needs of our community.
I feel that both Mr. Bill Denihan and Dr. Russ Kaye have both done a good job in their respective roles and careers. I feel the volunteer-appointed selection committee of the new Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County made a fine choice when they selected Mr. Denihan to be the new Chief Executive Officer.
Having watched Mr. Denihan become a leader in two settings that were up until that time unfamiliar to him — the Department of Children and Family Services and the Cuyahoga County Community Mental Health Board — he has proven to me that he brings four important qualities to the new job. All are assets ultimately to the community we serve.
First, he tackled each new assignment by becoming a student of the new area and quickly brought himself up to speed in each setting. Second, he learned on the job by immediately meeting with community experts in the particular field, and most importantly, he listened to all of these others before forming his own opinions. Third, in both situations he surrounded himself with a solid staff of professionals in the field. Fourth, he became a strong advocate for what’s important in each arena he’s led, whether it was child protection or mental health.
Now I’m betting he’ll quickly learn the business of alcohol and drug treatment and prevention and serve the needs of that community in a similar leadership manner.
Andrew Calladine LISW-S
The Center for Families and Children