Centerstone, a not-for-profit behavioral health system, has promoted Ben Middleton to regional chief executive officer for its Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina operations. He succeeds Dr. Bob Vero who recently retired. In his own words, here is Middleton’s vision for the future of Centerstone.

by Ben Middleton, MS

Track and field is one of my favorite sports, so I’ll make this analogy as I move into the role of regional CEO for Centerstone. My predecessor Dr. Bob Vero was the ideal pacesetter—he has done a wonderful job setting a high standard and leading the noble purpose of our organization: delivering care that changes people’s lives. Now I’m honored to maintain that pace, to help Centerstone stay in front as a behavioral health system of care that truly transforms each community it serves. Toward that goal, here are four areas in which our team aims to accelerate growth to further meet the needs of our clients.

Telehealth – COVID-19 brought the necessity and positive outcomes of telehealth to the forefront of our industry. Previously a small fraction of Centerstone’s work, we have provided 615,000+ services via telehealth in Tennessee since March 2020. We will nurture this method of service care delivery in addition to operating our 23 brick-and-mortar clinics, which have all reopened. Centerstone is working to identify the clients and providers who thrive in a telehealth setting and further develop those operations as a virtual clinic unto itself. We’re also excited to be currently working with the Tennessee Department of Health to provide telehealth training to any Tennessee mental health professional at no cost.

Evidence-Based Care – mental health assessment and treatment methods are always undergoing new academic and scientific research. I’m putting an emphasis on making sure Centerstone staff have the opportunity to be trained in some of these effective approaches that are developed. It’s important to have well-educated staff—lifelong learners—who can provide our clients with the best care available. This year our team is working intently with Centerstone’s Research Institute to get a “living laboratory” off the ground where staff can learn and safely experiment with proven new ways of care delivery.

Diversity – I cut my teeth in mental health leading a Tennessee advisory committee to develop a statewide culturally competent system of care for children and youth. Thirty years later our society deals with the same issues—a deficit of respect for the differences among people’s beliefs, cultures, and values. Centerstone has stepped out in front to promote the critical principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion in mental health. I’m proud to be the executive sponsor for Centerstone’s Black & Brown Professionals Network and to interface with our employee resource groups for Pride+, Women, and Veterans and Military Families. More groups like these will be developed in our organization for the empowerment of staff and improved treatment of clients alike.

Access to Care – thousands of Tennesseans are in a mental health care gap—meaning they have barriers (such as cost and coverage) to accessing services they want and need. That’s why Centerstone makes it a priority to educate communities about opportunities like Behavioral Health Safety Net of Tennessee’s widening eligibility for children and adults. It’s why we employ a grant writing team to secure state and federal funds to serve those with the least financial resources and greatest health needs. It’s why we’re bolstering telehealth efforts for those with family, location, or transportation barriers to treatment.

At Centerstone and throughout our industry, it’s remarkable to consider how far behavioral health care has come and to know there are no limits to where things may go working together—at an exciting pace—in service to our communities.