Power, embattled director guiding Zambarano Hospital reorganization, to resign April 9

PROVIDENCE A. Kathryn Power, who returned to Rhode Island government to lead the R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Development Disabilities and Hospitals, has resigned, effective April 9.

Gov. Daniel J. McKee’s office, in a statement, thanked her for her service and wished her well.

Power cited a family member’s health issues, in her resignation letter, but her move followed months of increasing criticism of her for her handling of a planned reorganization of the state Eleanor Slater hospital, including its Zambarano building.

That hospital has four buildings over two campuses, for people with significant mental illness, as well as people living with severe physical disabilities. When the federal government learned the state had admitted more people with mental illness diagnoses than was allowed under its license, it ended Medicaid payments, a situation that compelled  former Gov. Gina M. Raimondo, prior to Power’s arrival, to start to consider its reorganization. This included the discharge of mentally ill patients, a move that Power said was intended to allow people to live in a less-restrictive environment. Her critics said she was releasing people into settings that were not capable of supporting them.

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Power, in her resignation letter, said she had helped to move the department “to embrace a more aligned set of programs and services that are highly reflective of the least restricted environment, the most appropriate level of clinical care and the strong themes of personal choice, a safe, stable living situation and whole life self-management.”

Power previously served as director of BHDDH from 1993 to 2003, and was reappointed to the position by Raimondo in January 2020.

In his statement, McKee said the department serves a critical function for the state. “It will be a priority for the McKee administration to find a candidate to live up to its values providing high-quality care and services for some of Rhode Island’s most vulnerable residents,” he said.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.

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