Ventura County Supervisors Vote to Fire ‘Embattled’ Behavioral Health Director
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors yesterday voted 4-0 to fire "embattled" county Behavioral Health Department Director Dr. David Gudeman, the Ventura County Star reports. Although county supervisors did not comment on the decision, the Star reports that they fired Gudeman for "failing to be an effective administrator" and "embroiling the department in turf wars that hurt mental health care for children." Gudeman has been criticized for his role a dispute with the county Probation Agency over whether the behavioral health department should cover the cost of mental health care for children in the county's juvenile justice system (Koehler, Ventura County Star, 4/24). In addition, some critics have said that the behavioral health department had "moved away from collaboration" with other county agencies during Gudeman's tenure as director (Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 4/24). Gudeman did not comment on whether he will appeal the board's decision in court (Ventura County Star, 4/24). Pierre Durand, director of the county Health Care Agency, which administers the behavioral health department, appointed department COO Linda Shulman to serve as acting director. Durand also appointed Michael Ferguson, a psychiatrist and former employee at the department, to serve as acting medical director, a position that Gudeman also had held (Los Angeles Times, 4/24).
The "crisis" in the county behavioral health department "has not been fixed with Gudeman's ouster," according to a Star editorial, and despite his problems, Gudeman "cannot shoulder all the blame." The editorial recommends that county supervisors also evaluate the performance of Durand, who should "acknowledge the ... supervisors' authority or face the consequences" that Gudeman has faced. According to the Star, the "extraordinary challenges" of juvenile offenders with mental illness requires an "extraordinary leader, who can marshal not only his department and the county's resources, but the schools, law enforcement, the courts and community's as well." The Star concludes that the county also "should consider other recommendations focused on helping kids beyond reorganizing the bureaucracy" (Ventura County Star, 4/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.