By Emma Deihle
The interim executive director of Rockbridge Area Community Services has been so busy with his new job, he hasn’t even decided if he will apply for the full-time position.
John Young, the adult services clinical director for 11 years, said the transition has gone smoothly and he feels comfortable with what he’s had to do. But it’s a lot.
For now, he is focused on routine end-of-the-year tasks such as completing a routine external audit, finalizing the strategic plan and managing the administrative team.
In a newer initiative, Young hopes to continue to develop a crisis intervention task force funded by a grant from the state Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services. It allows RACS to team up with the Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office to train officers for handling people with mental handicaps. Plans for a crisis assessment center are also in place.
Young has been the interim director since Nov. 1 after former executive director Dennis Cropper retired.
Cropper was the director in 2013 when RACS faced one of its greatest crises. The organization came under fire after failing to secure further health care for state Sen. Creigh Deeds’ son, Gus, the day before he stabbed Deeds and killed himself. RACS was unable to find an open psychiatric bed before the emergency custody order detaining Gus expired.
Young said this event was a learning opportunity for RACS and he is pleased with the laws that have been implemented since the tragedy. He said national and state-wide awareness of mental health issues is critical. He hopes to see an increase in the availability and the quality of psychiatric care.
“I’d love to see more psychiatry services available in the health care settings that we all work with,” he said. “Emergency rooms should be staffed with some capability to have psychiatric consultation, just like they would with cardiac or trauma.”
Young received his bachelor’s in social work from the University of North Carolina – Greensboro and his master’s degree from UNC Chapel Hill in 1996. After stints in other community services agencies in North Carolina and Virginia, Young came to RACS in 2004.
He said the most compelling part of this work is “being able to see the quality of life improve for some of the most vulnerable populations that we work with. It really gets you excited when you see people really work their recovery.”
RACS, one of 40 community services agencies established by local governments in Virginia, provides assistance for the prevention and treatment of mental illness, developmental disabilities and substance abuse. RACS serves both Rockbridge and Bath counties and offers a wide range of services including psychiatric treatment, psychosocial rehabilitation, outpatient care and emergency services.
According to the job posting on its website, RACS is searching for a candidate who is knowledgeable about human resources management and is a strong communicator, among other things.
For now, the job is in qualified hands, say leaders at the agency.
In a statement on RACS’ website, Board Chair Ann Ashby-McKissick said the board of directors decided to appoint Young because “of his years of service with RACS and John is very knowledgeable in the day-to-day activities and programs that RACS offers.”
Cropper said he thinks Young will do “an excellent job” in the appointment.
“He has many years of experience in the field and I have every confidence in the world for him,” Cropper said.