Effective at the end of 2016, Timothy L. Morgan will retire as president of Portage Path Behavioral Health. Morgan, who has been with Portage Path since 1991, assumed control of the large behavioral healthcare provider from Jerry Kraker in July of 2009, and is just the third leader in the organization's 46-year history.

During his tenure as president, Morgan introduced the concept of integrated care to Portage Path, which has resulted in better outcomes, increased client satisfaction, and improved access to care. By partnering with established healthcare providers like Cleveland Clinic/Akron General, AxessPointe CHC, and Genoa Pharmacy, and effectively integrating different types of care, Portage Path has been able to substantially increase services available to clients, many of whom face difficult financial and social challenges. The end result has been improved quality of life for clients as providers work together to provide care and address unmet health issues.

"I think the role of Portage Path has already started to change," comments Jerry Craig, executive director of the Summit County ADM Board, Portage Path's largest funder. "Under Tim's leadership they've recognized the need to do more integration of primary care, to do more addiction services, and to provide case management. Developing these competencies is probably his biggest legacy."

In addition, Morgan represented Portage Path as a founding member of Prism Health System, a collaboration of large, Akron-area providers working together to achieve cost savings and promote strategic advancement for each other. To date, Prism had realized a savings of $2 million for its members, and has expanded throughout Ohio, and into Indiana and Michigan.

A Stow resident, Morgan graduated from Ohio University with a degree in communications. After college, Morgan served in the U.S. Army, primarily stationed at Fort Sam Houston in Texas. It was there, Morgan says, that he learned the importance of carefully reading and understanding rules and regulations (the Army has rooms full of them) because the way they were written and the changes being made to them gave you an understanding of the direction things were headed in the future.

"If you understood the changes and trends, you were ahead of the curve," says Morgan. This habit has helped Portage Path navigate the constantly-changing and ponderous world of regulation in the mental health field.

Morgan has spent his entire career serving at companies which help Summit County residents, beginning at the Area Agency on Aging, and moving on to United Cerebral Palsy and Services for the Handicapped, and then to the Summit County ADM Board. He spent the last 25 years at Portage Path, an agency that treats more than 9,000 people every year, providing outpatient and emergency mental health services.

When asked to single out a person who's had a significant impact on his professional development, Morgan cites Paul VanderSchie, former executive director of the Summit County ADM Board, saying, "He was a man who understood the intricacies of system design at a point in time when mental health was in need of change. He also was an incredible client advocate which guided his vision about what changes needed to be made, and would then implement them with unwavering focus."

While the mental health system has made great strides, Morgan laments that there is still a long way to go.

"When I first started working in mental health, there was a common perception with many people that behavioral issues were somehow some type of moral failing or weakness on the part of the individual. If you want to get better, grab your bootstraps and pull yourself up. Today, most of us know better. We know that mental health and addiction issues are complex combinations as diverse as chemical imbalances in the body to environmental issues related to where we live, work and play, but even with this knowledge stigma still exists. We need to continue to work diligently to get past the stigma.

"Also, while there are laws on the books and growing public sentiment to support the concept of 'mental health parity' it is largely just lip service," he added. "I continue to see efforts on the part of both public and private insurers to restrict, reduce and restrain access to legitimate behavioral health services. If you are going to talk parity you have to put your money where your mouth is."

He describes the current situation at Portage Path as being "in the midst of change," which he considers good, since static organizations which don't change with the times are destined to become insignificant. He adds that Portage Path "is a very relevant organization that will become even more important to Summit County residents because of its integrated care approach and philosophy."

"For pretty much its entire 45-year history, Portage Path has been funded and driven by service volume contracts," says Morgan, when asked about what lies ahead for the agency. "In the very near future, PPBH, like the rest of the healthcare field, needs to be ready to move from this model of funding to value-based contracting. This is a particular challenge in behavioral health since client outcomes can be more difficult to assess than they are for physical health issues."

"In many ways, trying to gear up for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act has felt like the Wild Wild West, with all its different dynamics," says Craig. "It seems like every year they introduce a new wrinkle that makes it that much more challenging. I think the ADM Board's role is really to help agencies stay in business while they figure it out, because it's only through the agencies that we can make sure that clients get the services they need."

Taking over for Morgan at the beginning of 2017 will be Dr. Tracy Davis Yaeger, a psychologist with 25 years of service at the agency. Yaeger currently holds the position of vice president of Clinical Services.