Board names new interim mental health director

Debra Moore
Staff Writer
10/11/2013
 

During its Oct. 1 meeting, the Plumas Board of Supervisors appointed Peter Livingston, a 13-year employee of the mental health department, to serve as that department’s interim director.

Livingston will succeed Michael Gunter, who was named interim director following the dismissal of Mental Health Director Kimball Pier on Sept. 18.

Human Resources Director Gayla Trumbo said that Gunter had been named interim director because he was next in the line of succession at the department, but it wasn’t designed to be the long-term solution.

Livingston’s appointment came after an hour-long closed session.

In making the announcement, County Counsel Craig Settlemire said the appointment could be for a number of weeks or up to a year, while the supervisors “take time to evaluate the department and see what’s best.”

“This is a situation where we need to hit the skids and serve the immediate needs of the clients we are already serving and those who are on the waiting list,” Supervisor Jon Kennedy said during an interview Oct. 3. “Hiring another director right away won’t solve that problem.”

Kennedy said he is confident that the department’s staff is well-qualified and that with some redistribution of the caseload, current clients could be accommodated. “But we need to staff up for those who are on the waiting list.”

As for selecting Livingston, Kennedy said, “I’m very confident that Peter can handle it. He has experience and he really, really cares.”

When asked to comment about his new role, Livingston, who has been working as a mental health therapist II, said that it would be premature to discuss his plans for the department, but that he was busy acclimating himself to the position of director.

 

A little advice

John Sebold, who served as Plumas County’s mental health director for 12 years before retiring in June 2012, said during an interview prior to Livingston’s appointment that he would advise the supervisors to find a retired mental health director to fill an interim appointment.

Sebold said he would have helped out if asked, but he wasn’t looking for a job. He said there are other retired directors who could step in and help run the department.

“If you have personnel who are anxious, scared and worried, you have serious problems,” Sebold said. “You have to ask, ‘How can we get this settled down?’”

The department is experiencing a number of challenges: from the loss of its director and other staff, to an accusation of patient dumping, and community concern about the department’s service in the wake of a recent teen suicide.

“We don’t want to have another A&D,” Sebold said, referring to the county’s


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