McKee nominates Charest to lead BHDDH

PROVIDENCE – A former CEO and president of Landmark Medical Center in Woonsocket has been tapped by Gov. Daniel J. McKee and R.I. Health and Human Services Secretary Womazetta Jones to be the new director of the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals.

McKee’s office announced late Wednesday that he submitted Richard Charest’s name to the R.I. Senate for its advice and consent on becoming the next BHDDH director. If approved, Charest would assume the role left by A. Kathryn Power. She resigned April 9 as BHDDH director citing a family member’s health issues, according to her resignation letter. However, her move followed months of increasing criticism for her handling of a planned reorganization of the state Eleanor Slater hospital, including its Zambarano building.

Jones has been serving as BHDDH’s interim director since Power’s resignation.

According to McKee’s office, Charest has more than three decades of experience in the health care sector. Along with leading Landmark Medical Center, where he guided hospital operations and finances through receivership, Charest also was the CEO and president of the Rehabilitation Hospital of Rhode Island and held several executive leadership positions with Landmark.

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Charest is currently providing consulting services on health care management and operations at Eleanor Slater Hospital, giving him “crucial knowledge of a facility that he will oversee” as BHDDH director, according to a news release.

“We are confident that Richard’s decades of experience in the health care field have prepared him to lead this department, which provides vital services and support to some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable populations,” McKee said in a statement.

Charest said Wednesday in a statement that the state has an opportunity to make “meaningful change” to a state department that is “decades overdue.”

“This is important work and I look forward to collaborating with stakeholders to deliver the results that patients and families need,” Charest said.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.