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Kasich Names New Head Of Mental Health And Addiction Services

Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
Tracy Plouck talks to an attendee at the annual Rally For Recovery at the Statehouse in September 2017.

Gov. John Kasich has named a new director for the state agency that oversees mental health services, after the agency’s leader stepped down last week.

Kasich named Dr. Mark Hurst to serve as head of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. He’ll start his job on July 13, replacing Tracy Plouck, who’s leaving for an opportunity in the private sector.

Plouck, one of the leading figures in the state’s battle against the deadly opioid crisis, is leaving six months before the end of Kasich’s term.

She was Medicaid director under Govs. Bob Taft and Ted Strickland. Kasich hired her to head the Department of Mental Health, which merged with Addiction Services in 2013.

“We’re proud of the fact that we’ve not had to do any layoffs resulting from this. But every dollar that we save, we’re going to put into services,” Plouck said at the time.

Plouck helped push for Medicaid expansion. And as the opioid crisis escalated, Plouck spoke out for treatment and prevention, even as some called on the Kasich administration to declare an emergency.

“I feel very strongly that we have been treating this like an emergency for the last six years,” Plouck said last fall.

Plouck helped oversee a challenging move of behavioral health services into Medicaid managed care on July 1.

Hurst, her replacement, has served as the department’s medical director since 2012 after joining the Ohio Department of Mental Health in 1993. As medical director, the Zanesville native provided clinical leadership for the department, including supervision of Ohio’s six regional psychiatric hospitals and all drug and alcohol recovery services in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections.