Thursday, January 29, 2009

Governor Perdue Appoints Mental Health Ombudsman Nominating Committee

Governor Sonny Perdue announced today his appointments to the Mental Health Ombudsman Nominating Committee. The nominating committee will recommend at least three candidates to the Governor for the ombudsman position. This committee will provide for the appointment, qualifications and term of the ombudsman and determine the organization of the Office the Ombudsman.

Governor Perdue signed House Bill 535 last year creating a mental health ombudsman position to investigate complaints about state hospitals and community services. Under this bill, the new ombudsman office would be attached to the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs and operate independently of the Department of Human Resources, which currently operates the public mental health system, including the state psychiatric hospitals. The ombudsmen will serve the crucial role of advocating for system-wide improvements, and providing legislators and other policy makers with independent information. The ombudsman will investigate complaints and make recommendations to agencies and other officials on immunity, mental health, developmental disabilities and addictive disease.

Georgia code requires a nominating committee of at least 5 people to nominate three candidates for ombudsman. The ombudsman shall have knowledge and experience concerning the safety, well-being, and rights of consumers and shall have the skills to perform the duties as provided for in O.C.G.A. 37-3-32.

Brief biographies are provided below:

Mental Health Ombudsman Nominating Committee

Mary Burns, M.D., 46, Atlanta – Burns is engaged in private practice and serves as a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Emory University. She is a member of the American Psychiatric Association, Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association and Atlanta Women’s Medical Alliance. Burns earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of the South and a medical degree from the Mercer University School of Medicine. She completed her residency in psychiatry at Duke University and a fellowship in child psychiatry at Harvard University School of Medicine. She and her husband, Eric, have two children.

Nora Lott Haynes, 58, Atlanta – Haynes is retired from the Department of Education, where she served as an administrator in Ware and Henry County Schools. She is president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Georgia, member of Daughters of the American Colonists and Colonial Dames of the 17th Century. She is past president of Leadership Waycross and a former member of the Rotary Club of Waycross. Haynes earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia and both a master’s degree and a specialist degree from Valdosta State University. She is married to Greg Haynes and has two children and two step children.

Thomas “Tommy” D. Hills, 64, Atlanta – Hills is the chief financial officer for the State of Georgia. He had a long and distinguished career with the First National Bank of Atlanta and Wachovia Bank, N.A. from 1965-2001. Most recently, he served as Wachovia Bank’s Atlanta City president. Hills is a member of the board of directors of George West Mental Health Foundation Center/Skyland Trail. His civic and community involvement has included the Atlanta Historical Society, the High Museum of Art, the Atlanta Opera, the Center for Puppetry Arts, the Hospital Authority of Fulton County, the Carter Center Board of Visitors, the Georgia Council on Economic Education, Leadership Atlanta, Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau. He is a member of the State Bar of Georgia, American Bankers Association Alumni Council and the Rotary Club of Atlanta. Hills earned a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Emory University and a master’s degree in southern history from Georgia State University. He and his wife, Wally, have 2 grown children and 5 grandchildren.

Vernon Keenan, 58, Ball Ground – Keenan is director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. He is a member of the Executive Board of Atlanta High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area and the Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies. Keenan served as a member of the State Homeland Security Central Command at the 2004 G-8 Summit in Sea Island, GA. Keenan earned a bachelor’s degree from Valdosta State College and a master’s degree from Columbus State University. He and his wife, Joan, have two children.

Sharon M. McDaniel, 50, Hiram – Following an 18 year career in the overhead door business, McDaniel has taught GED classes at The Church of the Holy Comforter Friendship Academy to consumers of mental health services, as well as working as a Certified Peer Specialist at a Community Service Board. She is on the board of directors of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Georgia, serves as vice president for NAMI’s South Cobb affiliate and is co-founder of She is also a state trainer for NAMI’s Peer to Peer classes, as well as being a peer mentor. McDaniel attended Florida Community College in Jacksonville, where she studied accounting. She and her husband, David, have three children and two grandchildren.

Donald S. Meck, Ph.D., 59, Bonaire – Meck has been in private practice in clinical psychology, neuropsychology, and forensic psychology for over 20 years. He is a member of the Georgia State Board of Examiners of Psychologists, the American Psychological Association, the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, the State Bar of Georgia, and the National Academy of Neuropsychologists. Meck is a fellow of the Georgia Psychological Association and past chairman of the Psychology Professional Standards Committee of Coliseum Psychiatric Hospital. He is the recipient of the 2003 Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards Roger Smith Award for outstanding contributions to the practice of psychology. Meck earned a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, a master’s degree from St. Mary’s University, a doctoral degree from Texas A&M University and a law degree from John Marshall Law School. He and his wife, Deborah, have three children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Gwendolyn “Gwen” B. Skinner, 52, Villa Rica – Skinner has served as director of the Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases, Department of Human Resources since 2004. She was previously employed by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice for more than 25 years, most recently as the deputy commissioner of operations. Skinner is a nationally certified school psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-approved supervisor of marriage and family therapists in the State of Georgia. In addition, she is a Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) certified instructor. Skinner earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the State University of West Georgia. She earned a second master’s degree and two specialist degrees from Georgia State University. She and her husband, Patrick, have served as foster parents for more than forty youth.
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