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Second time's the charm? Willie Brooks named Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority CEO

Willie Brooks
Oakland County
Willie Brooks

The Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority has named Willie Brooks its new CEO.

This is actually the second time Brooks has been offered the job as head of the state’s largest community mental health services provider.

Brooks was in contract negotiations with the Authority’s Executive Committee last October. But he pulled out when they couldn’t reach an agreement on some key issues, reportedly including a power-sharing arrangement between the CEO and the authority's board of directors.

But Brooks says he’s confident those issues are in the past.

“We’ve already worked on a lot things previously, so they pretty much know where we stand,” he said. “My assumption is it should be a pretty straightforward, easy process at this point.”

In the board's resolution authorizing his appointment, a provision states “Mr. Brooks shall have all the powers and duties of the CEO position” as outlined in state and DWMHA guidelines. The board also noted and praised Brooks’ “ability to build strong relationships with key stakeholders, legislative leaders, advocates, and state officials.”

Those political skills will be tested quickly, as Brooks says one of his top priorities will be dealing with Lansing. The state is piloting programsthat could end in the total privatization of mental health services, despite fierce opposition from many service providers, patients and patient advocates.

“The number one priority is keeping the public system a public system,” Brooks said, “I do not think that privatization will benefit the people served."

“I still believe in the public mental health system. I still think that Detroit is the most important piece in that public system. And I think that where Detroit goes, an entire system goes.”

Brooks says he hopes to have his contract finalized and be on the job by March. He’ll be leaving his current post as head of the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority.

Brooks comes on board as DWMHA is undergoing an “onsite certification review” by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The review was sparked by a number of issues, including questions about alleged favorable treatment of some contractors and the Authority’s failure to recoup full reimbursement from sub-contractors.

Brooks says he’s aware of that process and is confident those issues will be dealt with “once we go through this process.” He noted that one of the state’s concerns was the DWMHA’s trouble finding a permanent CEO.

“Hopefully, I will resolve that issue,” Brooks said.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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