Haroon R. Ansari, who will assume his duties tomorrow as head of Crownsville State Hospital, doesn't want to hear about an "acceptable" number of people who return for treatment after being discharged from an institution he runs.
For the 35-year-old Mr. Ansari, who was picked to head the
327-bed psychiatric hospital after a search that began last fall, no percentage is low enough.
"There's no acceptable relapse rate that I'm aware of," he said last week. "I want it to be as low as possible." His goal, he said, is to treat effectively as many patients as possible and return them to the community where they can lead productive lives.
The state's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene announced last week it had selected Mr. Ansari of Lansing, Mich., to head Crownsville, which serves five counties including Anne Arundel. The former head of a state-funded mental health organization in Detroit, Mr. Ansari was chosen from a field of 50 candidates after a national search.
Returning telephone calls during stops along the way on his journey from Michigan to Maryland last week, Mr. Ansari talked excitedly about taking over the $61,000-a-year position, saying he looked forward to using his leadership skills to make needed changes.
Getting the community more involved with the hospital and dealing more directly with mental health providers in the counties served by Crownsville are among his priorities, he said.
"Absolutely, yes, you have to get the community involved," he said, during a call from Pennsylvania, where he stopped to visit friends. "We've got to release information, get input, have newsletters, set up task forces.
"I wanted to relocate to an opportunity where I have challenges, where I can use my leadership to get involved with changing the system," he said. "Maryland is moving toward more community-based services. Wehave to do some serious networking with the community and other nonprofit organizations that provide mental health services."
Joan B. Gillece, a member of the search committee and executive assistant to the director of the state's Mental Hygiene Administration, said she and other committee members were attracted to Mr. Ansari because of his diverse background and strong interest in the job.
"That kind of enthusiasm is refreshing," she said. "One of the things that excited us about him is [that] he's very creative. He's very patient-oriented and very knowledgeable. . . . He has a vision for creating a continuum of care."
"I've heard he has a good bit of experience in dealing with community-based systems and community organizations," said Thomas Arthur, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Mental Health Advisory Committee.
"That's really promising," he said, adding that a lack of coordination between state mental hospitals and local health care providers, who often serve the same patients after they are discharged, has been a weakness in Maryland's system.
Mr. Ansari said he would spend several weeks reviewing the programs at Crownsville before thinking about changes. But, he added, his overall goals include improving the quality of care, such as the types of activities provided; working on cost-containment strategies; and improving access to treatment for patients.
Fluent in four languages, Mr. Ansari holds a doctorate in psychology, and master's degrees in psychology from Michigan State University and in public administration from Western Michigan University. He relocated to Pasadena this weekend with his wife, Naza, a psychiatrist who recently accepted a position at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.
Mr. Ansari's most recent position was as chief executive officer and executive director of Englewood Health Services/Intake and Referral Centers, Inc., a private, nonprofit organization based in Detroit. The state-funded organization provided a myriad of mental health services in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, including numerous community-based programs and programs for adolescents, the elderly, the criminally mentally ill and substance abusers.
The job will prepare him well for his responsibilities at Crownsville, he said, which also serves a variety of populations. He will manage an annual budget of $24 million.
Mr. Ansari replaces Richmond Manigault, who retired in May 1992.
Helen Ladue, who has served as acting superintendent since then, will resume her duties as deputy superintendent.