Dr. Herbert S. Gross, the county's director of the Division of Mental Health and Addictions, retired Thursday, but he won't be severing his ties to the area medical community.
Dr. Gross, 58, will expand his private psychiatry practice in Rockville and continue teaching part time at the University of Maryland. But he also will provide training to staff members at Crownsville State Hospital.
Dr. Gross held the county mental health job for six years. Before that, he was a full-time professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland School of Medicine for 21 years.
Frances Philips, the county's health officer and Dr. Gross' boss, said his teaching skills were an asset to the department.
"I think he's somewhat of an elder statesman for community psychiatry," she said, citing his ability to teach other people about psychiatry and his work with nonpsychiatrists.
Dr. Gross, who lives in Rockville, said one of his most important accomplishments during his six-year tenure was merging the divisions of mental health and addictions.
Many mentally ill people also have addictions and vice versa, he said. Treating one problem without tackling the other results in much higher rates of relapse and recidivism.
Two other programs that have been established under his leadership are the sexual assault crisis program and drug abuse prevention program, he said. "I think we have improved the outreach to the community, working with other agencies -- the courts, Department of Social Service, the Department of Education."
Whoever succeeds him will face many challenges, he said, given the rapidly changing health care system. One change that he predicts is the privatization of many services provided by the health department, such as its mental health clinics for people without private insurance.
"It will give us greater flexibility with limited resources," he said.
One of his biggest disappointments was that he was never able to get a homeless shelter built for mentally ill people with addictions.
Although the shelter never became a reality, health department employees are working more closely with the county's homeless shelters, Lighthouse in Annapolis and Sarah's House in Fort Meade, to bring services to clients who need them..
"We're doing a lot of outreach to the homeless shelters that we never did before," he said.
The division director oversees an annual budget of $6 million and supervises about 130 employees, Dr. Gross said.
The job pays anywhere from $39,000 to $88,000, said Ms. Philips, explaining that the salary will depend largely on the new director's experience and whether he or she has a medical degree.
Steven Katkowsky, deputy director of the division, will serve as acting director until Dr. Gross' successor is named. Ms. Philips said the department has conducted a statewide search, resulting in 100 applications. She expects the selection process to take about six weeks.